Tourism industry is “specialized” on getting money and tourists outside the country - Info-Prim Neo commentary

This year’s tourist season points out some serious flaws with Moldovan tourism industry, and yet there are a few positive tendencies in the agro-tourism sector. In the first half of this year, tourism agencies have enjoyed a considerable growth of 29.1% in the international tourism (numbers rose to 22 774 persons), figures especially optimistic when compared with the last year’s 31.1% decrease of tourists in the same period. On the other side, the local tourism is in a great depression and is constantly diminishing. Especially affected is the business tourism. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in the first half of this year 6900 foreign tourists have visited Moldova, a decrease of 20% compared with the same period of the last year, and a mere 3800 tourists were on business trips, a drop by 32,7%. But the official statistics seem to be misinformed. Last year the National Bureau of Statistics has announced 10 933 arrivals for the first half of the year, of which 7 466 were business trips. Therefore, a simple calculus shows that the overall number of incoming tourists has dropped by 37% - not 20%, and the number of business trips is half as big – down by 48,9%, and not 32,7%. There is something wrong with these numbers! The general impression is that, at the moment, tourism is taking money out of the country rather than bringing them in. [Tourism – work or leisure] But let as return to the outgoing tourism. According to the branch’s operators, the main directions of Moldovan tourists this summer are Romania and the Ukraine, followed by Bulgaria and Turkey. This hierarchy reflects the financial situation of the average Moldovan tourist: most of low budget tourists prefer the Ukrainian seaside, then the Romanian coast and so forth depending on possibilities. Still, what’s the big deal with all these tourists leaving the country? The phenomenon is of interest especially taking into consideration the last year’s growth of the market and reveals some contradictory evolution: from great recesses to rapid growth. That’s why it would be efficient to analyze the situation along with the internal situation. The wine crisis has left unemployed a great number of persons, and the situation in the energetic branch has caused an increase in prices. As a result, it is possible that a part of the “tourists” are in fact persons seeking a job in the wealthier countries. We must mention that the figure of persons leaving the country in business trips went up 4.7-fold, amounting to 3 764 persons. We do not rule out the possibility that some companies send their employees to establish new business contacts or for trainings, but we must stress out that many Moldavians obtain a short term legal job in some of the countries to the West: such as Czechoslovakia, after which they try their best to extend their work contract. This is why the increase of Moldovans, who wish to have a vacation abroad, considering the current situation, should seem suspicious and should be carefully watched. [Foreigners are not interested in business with Moldova] As for the receiving tourism, as we have seen, the most affected was the business tourism. This means that tourist are either not interested in Moldova at whole, either see no business perspectives here. Recently, in a statement for BBC, the head of the Statistics and Marketing Department of the Ministry of Culture, Maria Papusoi, stated this decrease in first of all caused by the fact that several international projects have seized their activity. “This phenomenon is caused by fact that some World Bank projects have ended, along with other programs” stated Mrs. Papusoi. In fact, the officials are trying to say that the staff numbers of several projects were cut down, and this has nothing to do with the number of persons interested in business with Moldova. At this moment we should point out that the activity of international organizations in a country, especially financial organizations, is a determining factor for the business climate of that country. In a country where international organizations are seizing activity and do not plan any new projects, the international investments will also be scarce, and therefore no serious economic tourism will exist. Even if the explanation with the projects has a valid justification, it is not a relevant one. Thus we must turn to the internal situation to find reasons why the incoming tourism is decreasing. In the first place, the 2006 economic year started off affected by great crises: the gas crisis (Moldova was the only country for which Gazprom seized all gas shipments) and the wine crisis, which had a terrible impact on the countries main industry. On this background, the information that reached the foreign business groups was rather somber and showed an economy affected by crises and Government unable to handle the situation. Also, Moldova doesn’t have companies that would arrange business tourism in Chisinau, let alone other regions; there are no forums, missions, no international business debates. [Agro-tourism is on a rise] There are some good news, though, as the number of tourist, both residents of Moldova and from abroad, has increased 2.6-fold (to 1464 tourists overall), and 7.5-fold more tourists have stayed over night, for a total of 8528. Therefore, there is a light growth in the area of rural, wine and agricultural tourism at whole, which is at the moment one of the most promising branches o tourism from Moldova. It’s a pity this branch is heavily influenced by the inadequate infrastructure and poor service area. The greatest problem is that the Government has no intention at all to invest in this area of tourism, an area that could bring good profit to the state and also could aid in rural evolution. Until the Government decides otherwise, all we can do is watch as money and tourists are leaving the country.

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