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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Petersburg Hotels Brace for a Flood of Dignitaries

MTVladimirsky Passazh retail and hotel complex on Vladimirsky Prospekt is one of the sites slated to open before the celebrations.
ST. PETERSBURG -- The shortage of hotel rooms that St. Petersburg experiences every year during the peak of the tourism season will be exacerbated by the city's 300th-anniversary celebrations in May and June.

But hoteliers are breathing easier after the federal government scaled back its earlier request to take over every room in the city's best hotels for three weeks next summer.

To ensure that the 15,000 official guests invited to visit the city for the celebrations get beds, the presidential property department and the tourism department of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry sent a letter in July to 24 hotels in St. Petersburg, asking them to reserve all of their rooms for official guests between May 15 and June 5.

While the news initially created concern within the local tourism industry, the government later reduced the official period to a few days.

"The fact that the government has asked us to block these dates for official guests doesn't disturb me, as they are going to fill all 232 of our rooms between May 27 and June 1," said the Astoria Hotel's international sales manager, Maurice Fleskens.

"We are happy, however, that the initial period, which was really too long, has been shortened to a few days," Fleskens said.

The presidential property department would not release the names of the 24 hotels contacted with the request.

However, the city's top hotels -- the Astoria Hotel, the Grand Hotel Europe, the Corinthia Nevskij Palace and the Radisson SAS -- are reserving rooms.

While most of the high-level foreign guests will be guests of President Vladimir Putin at the Konsantinovsky Palace, near the suburb of Peterhof, foreign officials' security and support staff, as well as other support staff accompanying federal officials coming for the celebration from Moscow, will require hotel rooms in the city.

According to St. Petersburg's tourism committee, the northern capital has enough rooms to accommodate about 32,000 tourists, a number that increases by 17,000 if the city's 72 health resorts are included.

"Cruise ships are also becoming increasingly popular in the city, and are expected to bring 3,000 tourists next summer," said Valentin Zakharov, the committee's spokesman.

"But there will definitely not be enough rooms for everyone this summer; this happens every year," Zakharov said.

Almost 4 million tourists, from Russia and abroad, visited St. Petersburg last year, but the number of tourists wishing to visit the city next spring and summer is likely to break all previous records.

"About 40 delegations are expected to visit St. Petersburg, including countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Union, the G-8, as well as India and China," said presidential property department spokesman Viktor Khrekov. "The funds to cover the hotel bill will be taken from the federal budget, but I don't know how much it will amount to."

Although the government has been careful about placing hotel reservations in order to avoid forcing hotels to cancel tourist bookings, the process is going slowly. Some hotel managers are still in the dark as to what will happen in their hotels at the end of May and the beginning of June.

Even though the dates in the new government guidelines are narrower, the Grand Hotel Europe has already blocked off its rooms for a longer period.

"For the moment, we are not taking tourist reservations for the period between May 25 and June 5," said Elmar Greif, the Grand Hotel Europe's general manager.

"We are still waiting for the government to send us more detailed information," he said.

Khrekov said the hotels might have to wait another few months for precise guidelines.

"The process is under way, but concrete information will be available only toward the beginning of next year, because the bureaucratic process is going slowly," he said.

City Hall said it is aware of the accommodation problems and that it is trying to ease the situation.

"The city administration is taking measures to improve this situation and build new hotels by attracting investors, turning over sites for construction and following up with the construction process," said Zakharov of St. Petersburg's tourism committee.

"By 2006, the city plans to increase the number of hotel beds by 2,500," he said.

A group of hotels are expected to open before the anniversary celebrations.

New hotels are under construction on Vladimirsky Prospekt, Suvorovsky Prospekt, and on the grounds of the Sestroretsk golf club. In addition, four small luxury hotels are being built on Kamenny Ostrov.