Authorities in Nizhny Novgorod, a large city on the Volga River some 450 km to the east of Moscow, and the Nizhny Novgorod region call tourism a priority sector of the local economy. They even allocate some money for its development. However, so far the results are not impressive.
In particular, very awkward decisions were made in terms of advertising and marketing of the Nizhny Novgorod region. Apparently, people who are responsible for development of the region have never heard about such science as marketing.
For example, the administration of the Nizhny Novgorod region allocated 1.7 mln rubles ($22,916) for two TikTokers, Karina Nigai and Andrei Glazunov, to come to Nizhny Novgorod. They were supposed to make the Nizhny Novgorod region more attractive with the help of their videos on TikTok. Irina Kartushina, a travel consultant in Nizhny Novgorod, told wek.ru that 1.7 mln rubles was an average price for the advertisement in the blogging industry but in this case, the money was spent in vain.
First of all, the target audience was defined very haphazardly, as TikTok is mostly used by teenagers. It is popular with 10- to 13-year-olds who are given pocket money by their parents and who cannot move around the country without being accompanied by an adult.
Secondly, Nigai and Glazunov's stories were available for viewing just for 24 hours. Then they disappeared. As a result, the visitnizhny website that was supposed to be promoted by the bloggers did not gain many followers.
And finally, a cherry on top. In a video on her TikTok account, Karina Nigai said that she wanted "to have a prostitute lifestyle." Back in 1967, Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian cultural scientist, social philosopher, and sociologist, said that "The Medium is the Message." It means that the messenger is the message.
In a nutshell, the government of the Nizhny Novgorod region made a huge mistake wasting almost 2 mln rubles. The same money could have been used for hosting a travel-bloggers festival whose audience is interested in traveling. This is just one of possible variants.
Nikolay Tereschenko, a well-known expert in marketing and the author of the bestseller ‘RE: Marketing. Is it possible to practice funk style?’ shared his opinion on his Facebook account.
"I suggested a reasonable marketing approach to tourism to the government of the Nizhny Novgorod region. It is a classic approach including research, communication strategy, a variety of topics for different social media platforms, implementation of projects, and the re-study of the results. To increase tourist flow by a factor of 2 within three years would be the main target, and quite realistic one. But apparently, the officials don’t care about the 800th anniversary of Nizhny Novgorod and the events related to it. They’d rather give money to two bloggers or draw a stupid logo. Or launch the 800-good-deeds website which nobody looks at and nobody understands what it is all for. Words fail to describe what is going on. This is an extremely unprofessional approach. I do not even want to discuss it anymore. It is a sham!"
To Kartushina’s thinking, before promoting a product and investing in it one needs to “gift-wrap it.” Meanwhile, Nizhny Novgorod's attractiveness as a product for potential tourists is not clear and is not gift-wrapped.
On Skis From Mountains
Obviously, the content of these TikTokers was boring and banal. For example, no word was said about the skiing opportunities in Nizhny Novgorod and the region. There are plenty of them – Sluda in the Switzerland Park and Khabarskoe with 10 km of high-quality slopes, the Novinki ski resort in the Bogorodsky district, and Terraski. All of these places not only have rentals of sports equipment, instructors, equipped slopes and lifts but also have places to stay.
Against the backdrop of closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing popularity of staycations in Russia, these ski resorts in Nizhny Novgorod could be visited by many more people. However, with the advertising of the aforesaid type it is not likely.
Moreover, this is happening at a time when Siberian ski resorts are overcrowded in spite of the soaring prices there. For example, Sheregesh (Kuzbass) is so popular that extra flights were launched from Moscow back in November transporting tourists three times a week. The price for single ticket starts from 4,000 rubles ($53.92.)
However, not everyone had an opportunity to enjoy skiing in Siberia this New Year's Eve. The hotels were booked up to full capacity. Where did the tourists go? Nowhere. They just weren't aware of the opportunities in Nizhny Novgorod.
One could say it's beyond the government’s responsibilities to take care of profits of private companies. Perhaps. Then it's unclear why the Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism,) one the government agencies, promoted Sheregesh as a destination for winter vacations in Russia. Not to mention the fact that tourists spending money at resorts contribute indirectly to the growth of budget revenues there. At least, profit taxes and personal income tax go to the municipal and regional budgets. In other words, the authorities have a huge interest in the development and promotion of local tourism potential.
Unfortunately, there is no clear strategy to attract tourists to the region either in connection with the 800th anniversary of Nizhny Novgorod or in any other context. The random actions of officials supported neither by the opinion and assessment of market players nor by SMM experts, cannot be called a strategy. The above-mentioned example with the TikTokers Nigai and Glazunov is very illustrative.
What to Sell and Whom to?
For example, Yuri Kuzmichev, a hostel owner from Nizhny Novgorod, told wek.ru that he recommended focusing on attracting and serving guests from Moscow. "It takes five hours by car from Moscow, four hours by train and forty minutes by plane,” he said. “Moscow residents have money. There are 15 million of able-to-pay tourists but there is no strategy on how to attract them. Meanwhile, the competition in the domestic tourism market is tough."
For her part, Anna Wingurt, an expert in PR and travel industry, believes that to create comfortable living conditions in the region, above all for the residents themselves, is the most important thing in terms of attracting tourists. They must be satisfied with the level and quality of life. There must be convenient transport routes and other infrastructure, recreational space and so on. In this case, the locals themselves will start telling everyone about the sightseeing and beauty of their native city and the stories will reach not only their relatives and friends but will also get on social media.
This is partially true. For example, there is a Facebook group called ‘Beautiful Nizhny.’ It discusses the advantages of the city.
Wingurt voiced another interesting idea. Namely, to create an agenda that will incentivize bloggers to come there themselves, but without paying them. Again, the concept seems to be helpful but not completely. To leave such a complex undertaking as attracting tourists to the city's residents and bloggers from other regions might be ineffective. In this case, a well-conceived and calculated strategy with clear goals, objectives, and tools for achieving them is needed.
If, for some reason, regional and municipal authorities do not trust the Nizhny Novgorod travel industry experts, they can resort to third-party assistance. They can study the experience of other regions, from Uglich and Myshkin in the Yaroslavl region where tourist attractions were created out of nothing, to the Golden Ring and other places.
Interestingly, one of the residences of Grandfather Frost [the Russian Santa Claus] is located in Uglich. This project has become nationwide. In the Varnavino district of Nizhny Novgorod region the authorities are trying to promote Morozko, the Snow Maiden's father. There is some progress but who would remember about Morozko without googling this information? We do not want to belittle the efforts of Vladimir Khrykov, the author of the Morozko Town project. We only want to say that the author and the project might need regional support for attracting federal money. Yes, there is a presidential subsidy but it is a one-time investment. This is obviously not enough for a steady development of the project.
Notably, this year, the Morozko Town show-quest scheduled for January 8 was canceled for technical reasons. In addition to the big festive program, the Varnavino History and Art Museum and the Lapshanga Crafts Centre were supposed to take part in it.