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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Russian Regions, Business Hotels Blossom

Travelers setting out for a business trip to one of Russia's regional centers may expect to spend their hotel time in a Brezhnev-era dive -- rooms with stained gray wallpaper, bedsheets in a matching state, musty furnishings and surly help.

But hotels are beginning to appear in Russia's provinces that offer top-flight rooms and service. It is hardly surprising, though, that they boast upmarket prices to match.

Kapital surveyed auditors, bankers and other business travelers to Russia's regions to learn their impressions of hotels outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. In each of the 10 regional centers surveyed here -- considered among the most popular and open to foreign investment -- there are indeed comfortable, high-quality hotels (See table at right).

One hotel that has made a good impression on business travelers is the High Quality Hotel Tyumen, owned by Gazprom and a member of the Choice International association of hotels.

"More than anything I remember the great food, terrific bathrooms and the music in the elevators at the Tyumen," said Filipp Ilyin, the head of the Yunikon auditing company's press service and a recent guest at the hotel.

For the most part, top-level local hotels belong either to the local governments or, as in the case with High Quality Hotel Tyumen, to large companies.

The most prestigious lodgings in Nizhnevartovsk, a city near Tyumen, can be found at the Samotlor and the Ob, two hotels in a complex built by the Nizhnevartovskneftegaz oil company. The most comfortable hotels in Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg -- the Sosnovy Bor and the Oktyabrskaya, respectively -- belong to the local governments.

So far, Western corporations are in no hurry to begin building hotels in Russia's regions, although some have already moved in. Austria's Marco Polo company, for example, built the Beresta-Palace in Novgorod. Currently, the Beresta-Palace is a member of the Best Western system.

The South Korean firm Hyundai is building a 150-room hotel in Vladivostok. Some think the new hotel is unnecessary: According to Andrei Golychev, director of Vladivostok's Gavan Hotel, none of the city's hotels ever reaches an occupancy rate of over 50 percent.

Privately owned hotels are also beginning to appear in some cities, but observers say their small sizes and high prices have yet to make an impact on Russia's regional hotel industry.

Although small hotels provide little real competition for their large neighbors, sometimes they do manage to steal away prominent guests. The tiny three-unit Sergievskaya hotel in Nizhny Novgorod, for example, counts pop star Filipp Kirkorov and filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov among its clients. Located in a 19th-century mansion, the Sergievskaya offers handmade furniture, homemade lunches and dinners prepared by the hotel's chef, as well as breakfast in bed. That last feature is especially attractive to guests in the bridal suite, decorated in shades of pink and featuring a jacuzzi and canopied bed. Rooms run from $120 to $250 a night.