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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hotels Do Swifter, Higher, Stronger Business

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The International Olympic Committee has yet to select the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics, but Moscow is already celebrating — or at least its hotels are.

Many top hotels are fully booked as thousands of delegates, guests, VIPs and journalists arrive in town for the IOC's 112th session, which will name the 2008 host city and the successor to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who is stepping down after 21 years.

Already in a peak season with higher occupancy rates than last year, many Western-standard hotels are enjoying the effects of Moscow hosting the annual IOC session, which according to City Hall estimates should attract more than 5,000 people to the capital before the meeting ends Monday.

Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the IOC, said that about 1,300 journalists would be in town — more than the expected 800 delegates and guests.

Pyotr Medvedev, hospitality and leisure practice manager at Arthur Andersen, said delegations from the five cities bidding for the 2008 Games — Osaka, Paris, Beijing, Istanbul and Toronto — would likely total 250 people each. In addition, 200 corporate sponsors and 350 people representing sports organizations will attend, he estimated.

"Given that the total number of quality hotel rooms in Moscow is somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000, you can see that this event on a stand-alone basis will ensure at least 50 percent occupancy," Medvedev said.

The main meetings will be held at the World Trade Center, while two other nearby hotels — the Ukraina and the Radisson Slavjanskaya — also have official roles.

Richard Myer, director of sales and marketing at the Radisson Slavjanskaya, said the Radisson is the event's official press center and would be full from July 8 to 16 in connection with the Olympic meeting. The hotel's conference halls and press facilities would be dedicated to the IOC for the duration of its session, he said.

Marriott Grand Hotel manager John Eaton said the Grand, the Marriott Aurora and the Marriott Tverskaya will all be full during the session and bookings are heavier than normal. The Aurora will host VIPs and the Grand will host the Canadian delegation, he added.

Sheraton Palace public relations manager Olga Rumyantseva said her hotel is also fully booked for the week, but only 70 percent of rooms are booked for the weekend.

Andrei Abadjidi, manager of public relations and advertising at the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski, said the Olympic committee session would have little effect on the Baltschug's occupancy, which is at about 50 percent, but would be good for Moscow.

"The Olympic session is a significant event in international sports. We are proud of the Russian capital for getting the right to host it. Many famous people are coming to Moscow, which will definitely contribute to the positive image of the city," Abadjidi said.

Several other hotels said they would be full or almost full during the session, which takes place during one of the high points of the season, and that occupancy this year is generally about 10 percent above last year's levels.

One factor that could extend that trend is an experimental program being introduced this summer to offer 72-hour "fast-track" visas at airports in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A spokeswoman for Soleans VIP Service, the company that will handle the new visa service at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, said the experiment could begin as early as next week.

The Radisson's Myer said the goal of the visa program is to attract more weekend business. "There are a lot of Europeans that make last-minute decisions with regards to where they are going to go for the weekend. Moscow's never been a consideration — one reason is price, in terms of airfare, and another is the logistics of getting a quick visa. This will address one of the barriers."

The Sheraton's Rumyantseva said fast-track visas would not only boost the travel industry but Moscow's economy as a whole.

"It is really going to be an advantage for businessmen as well since Moscow is the main business center for Russia.

"The average duration of a business visit is two to three days; corresponding to the duration allowed by the new visa," she said.

Eaton from the Marriott, however, said the time limit should be lengthened. "Three days is not enough; it needs to be seven days," he said.

The biggest complaint that Marriott guests have, Eaton said, is the long immigration and customs lines, which often take two hours to get through.

Andersen's Medvedev said the existing regime is hurting the industry. "People are not ready to spend over $100 and tons of time to get a Russian visa," he said.

If the experiment runs smoothly, then it should lead to a boost in the number of individual tourists coming to Moscow and St. Petersburg for short visits, Medvedev said.

Scott Antel, a partner in Arthur Andersen's hospitality and leisure practice, said easing visa procedures should help Moscow catch up with other tourist destinations. "Despite being an international capital, business and tourist travel is very low compared to cities of comparable stature and population," he said.