Belarus plans to create new health resort areas, Minister of Sport and tourism of Belarus Oleg Kachan told during a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers on 7 July.
The plans are to develop a tourist project in the Pripyatsky-Polesye health resort area, and also in other regions of the country, Oleg Kachan said. He also noted that the regulations on simplifying the allotment of land plots for tourist facilities and roadside service sites are being worked out.
The measures stipulated in the national tourism development programme of Belarus for 2008-2010 were mainly implemented in 2008. Necessary regulations on tourism have been developed. The industry is staffed with highly-qualified specialists. Promotional materials have been published in eight languages. In 2008 necessary renovation programmes were implemented at 201 sites. Some 170 objects were delivered. The number of agro-centres increased from 474 in 2008 to 722 as of 1 July 2009.
There is a need to encourage private business to come into the tourism industry. There is a need for more private hotels and public catering places including roadside cafes, Oleg Kachan said.
The Ministry of Sport and Tourism is also working on excluding the seasonal factor in the domestic tourism industry. For that it is necessary to build more entertainment centres including aqua-parks, to promote Belarusian tourist facilities and areas. "We need to emphasize the uniqueness of the country to attract foreign visitors," the minister said.
The share of tourist services accounts for 2.9% of the total services in Belarus. This is not high, Oleg Kachan said. The country seeks to increase this share till 5% by 2010, he added.
The abolition of visas for foreign tourists coming to Belarus will benefit the country's economy, Sports and Tourism Minister Oleg Kachan said.
"Together with the Belarusian Foreign Ministry we are considering the abolition of visas for the EU citizens entering Belarus," Oleg Kachan said.
Each foreign tourist coming to Belarus spends about EUR200 here, of which EUR60 is the cost of the visa. Of course, there are tourists who will come to Belarus irrespective of the visa cost; these people can spend much money here provided they are happy with service. But for an average tourist EUR60 for the entry visa is too much, the minister said. This factor somewhat restrains the inflow of tourists to Belarus.
The Board of the Council of Ministers pointed out to the lack of hotels, especially in the regional centres and small towns. This is the reason why tourists opt to stay in Minsk coming to small towns only for one day. At present there are 27 hotels in Minsk, eight are being designed. Their occupancy rate is 60%.
First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko noted that Belarus will have to provide accommodation to several hundreds of thousand tourists who are expected to come for 2014 ice hockey world championship.
Chairman of the Council of the Republic Boris Batura thinks that large hotel chain operators should be involved in order to increase the occupancy rate of Minsk hotels. The construction of hotels of famous brands will help attract more tourists to Belarus.