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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hotels Float Away From St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Enchanted Isle cruise liner anchored here a year ago, it aimed at becoming a permanent, Western-standard hotel with Las Vegas-style entertainment -- all at reasonable prices.


Yet the dream of a love boat on the Neva sank like a stone as undesirable clients started showing up in the restaurants and clubs, the Russian and Swedish partners disagreed over operations, and would-be hotel guests stayed away from the renamed Commodore Hotel, officials said.


Last week, the hotel closed down, and by the end of this month, the massive ship that once cruised the Caribbean plans to leave St. Petersburg for good.


"We lost a lot of money on the ship," said Hakan Stenberg, a spokesman for EffJohn International, the Swedish half of the joint venture. "The market for this ship has been more or less non-existent."


A top local tourism official said that the 350-room Commodore's very concept of mid-range prices -- $120 for a double compared to $345 at St. Petersburg's swanky Grand Hotel Europe -- is what led to its demise.


"The management is to blame for the prices and the level of entertainment it used to attract the widest possible audience," said Sergei Kovalyov, tourism development director for St. Petersburg's city government. "Slowly, it became a popular hotel among the mafia."


Perhaps the core of the problem was the "all-American integrated entertainment center" to use the Commodore's own language from a year ago.


"Commodore Hotel will be different from other hotels in St. Petersburg in that it will offer round-the-clock entertainment," a hotel press release boasted just before opening in August 1993. Later they wrote: "It has been party time on the historic banks of the Neva River."


All the glitter and excitement started attracting undesirable elements, Kovalyov said, and the Commodore eventually had to ask city authorities to strengthen its police presence in the isolated area outside the tourist center where the boat was moored.


By telephone from Stockholm, Stenberg said the so-called mafia was not a direct reason for closing the hotel.


"We feel that the timing was wrong," he said. "In the long run, Russia -- not only St. Petersburg but also Moscow and elsewhere -- will be very, very attractive for tourism, but what is very hard to judge is when."


In another blow to St. Petersburg's tourist industry, another mid-price boat hotel, the Olympia, on Monday also closed down operations indefinitely. The general manager, Pia Baath, said that the boat may decide to leave altogether because of the city government's refusal to grant financial guarantees for the Swedish group financing the boat.


Baath said that unlike the Commodore, which has had only about 20 percent occupancy over the past year, the Olympia enjoyed a 65 percent occupancy for the first six months of this year.


Yet Kovalyov said the city has not given the guarantees because that would be "unfavorable" for the city.By Adam Tanner


THE MOSCOW TIMES


ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Enchanted Isle cruise liner anchored here a year ago, it aimed at becoming a permanent, Western-standard hotel with Las Vegas-style entertainment -- all at reasonable prices.


Yet the dream of a love boat on the Neva sank like a stone as undesirable clients started showing up in the restaurants and clubs, the Russian and Swedish partners disagreed over operations, and would-be hotel guests stayed away from the renamed Commodore Hotel, officials said.


Last week, the hotel closed down, and by the end of this month, the massive ship that once cruised the Caribbean plans to leave St. Petersburg for good.


"We lost a lot of money on the ship," said Hakan Stenberg, a spokesman for EffJohn International, the Swedish half of the joint venture. "The market for this ship has been more or less non-existent."


A top local tourism official said that the 350-room Commodore's very concept of mid-range prices -- $120 for a double compared to $345 at St. Petersburg's swanky Grand Hotel Europe -- is what led to its demise.


"The management is to blame for the prices and the level of entertainment it used to attract the widest possible audience," said Sergei Kovalyov, tourism development director for St. Petersburg's city government. "Slowly, it became a popular hotel among the mafia."


Perhaps the core of the problem was the "all-American integrated entertainment center" to use the Commodore's own language from a year ago.


"Commodore Hotel will be different from other hotels in St. Petersburg in that it will offer round-the-clock entertainment," a hotel press release boasted just before opening in August 1993. Later they wrote: "It has been party time on the historic banks of the Neva River."


All the glitter and excitement started attracting undesirable elements, Kovalyov said, and the Commodore eventually had to ask city authorities to strengthen its police presence in the isolated area outside the tourist center where the boat was moored.


By telephone from Stockholm, Stenberg said the so-called mafia was not a direct reason for closing the hotel.


"We feel that the timing was wrong," he said. "In the long run, Russia -- not only St. Petersburg but also Moscow and elsewhere -- will be very, very attractive for tourism, but what is very hard to judge is when."


In another blow to St. Petersburg's tourist industry, another mid-price boat hotel, the Olympia, on Monday also closed down operations indefinitely. The general manager, Pia Baath, said that the boat may decide to leave altogether because of the city government's refusal to grant financial guarantees for the Swedish group financing the boat.


Baath said that unlike the Commodore, which has had only about 20 percent occupancy over the past year, the Olympia enjoyed a 65 percent occupancy for the first six months of this year.


Yet Kovalyov said the city has not given the guarantees because that would be "unfavorable" for the city.