…till now Chechen Republic (Russia) is a “warning” zone in some international travel catalogues…
I met Elina Bataeva during my trip to Grozny (Chechen Republic) several years ago. A young modern and at the same time traditionally dressed lady impressed me with her ambitious plans for inbound tourism in one of the most knotted regions of Russia. Military actions of Chechen separatists and federal Russian troops ran in the Republic till 2000. New life was just starting from the scratch. How are you now, Elina?
Mother of Chechen tourism
I don’t like to be called like that (***mother of Chechen tourism). But since you ask, I’ll tell you. 2008 I graduated from Russian International Tourism Academy in Moscow. At that time, it was about tourism everywhere. After I came back to Chechnya my husband and I organized our first travel enterprise. We conducted the travel routes, started with the promotion of Chechenia region from the scratch. At the same time, I was invited to the very first tourism department in after war region. My husband continued with his own business projects, I decided for the government. As the head of state enterprise I initiated the creation of a brand and a tour operator “Visit Chechnya”. I was busy with the development of a tourism center with the promotion of the region. 2018 I came back to my own business, because my mission within was over. So, now my husband and I are running a tour operator Elgas, offering tours not only in Chechnya, but also in the whole North Caucasus region.
International guests in North Caucasus (Russia)
Our first international guests came from Asia. These were travelers from Taiwan and Hong Kong. We decided not to start with Central China, because it`s not an easy clientele. The region itself is a place for tailor-made tours, you can’t find mass product here. So we hosted VIPs, who mostly come from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Our first European guests came 2013 from Poland. We have partners from the USA since 2018.
First of all, international guests contacted us at the travel shows. We exhibited not only at MITT Moscow, but also at WTM London, ITB Singapore and Berlin. The jungle telegraph is the number two source. DMC`s from other far regions of Russia, like e.g. from Vladivostok offer our services to their clients, who want to come to North Caucasus region. We had 4 direct contracts with international companies and other more via third parties. So, we`re expanding.
What do international guests like in North Caucasus?
International guests are very eager for edutainment tours. Trendy immersive tours are of big demand. The guests immerse themselves in Caucasian Culture. E.g. our guests join local families for dinner. We organize helicopter trips. For international guests we choose the highest level of meal, transportation and accommodation. All our tour guides are English speaking. That all can be realized in our region.
One the one side our international guests compare Caucasus with their previous experience. On the other side they are tired of glossy landscapes of Switzerland or Austria. They are eager of some the savagery of nature, culture, infrastructure. The guests do not come for luxury. They come for authentic experience, local impressions, homemade Caucasian cuisine. They are looking for national charm. Till now our region does not exist on some official travel webpages. Many of them, like wikivoyage contain a sigh “warning”. This is also a certain attraction for some travelers. E.g. participants of Best Travel People club contacted us to visit one of the few unknown places in the world (laughing).
Military tour in Chechnya is a trigger among professionals dd. 23 February
Yes, you`re right. We offered a military tour as a present to Russian men for Defender of the Motherland Day on February 23. It`s pretty cool for a man to drive military car, to parachute or to have a weapon ready. But It became a real trigger for locals. The Deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia on February 23, 1944. So for the locals it`s a real trigger. But it should be stressed that all the guests will leave February 23. So, no activities are planned for this day.
As I’ve mentioned our international clients are from Asia. After we announced our military tour we received requests not only from Asia, but also from Poland, Belorussia.
North Caucasus promotion wanted!
Unfortunately, the promotion of Caucasus region is going off in different directions. We need a strong joint brand. We need a person to lead the marketing of Caucasian travel destination. We are not talking about financing only. We need a structure to unite Caucasian republics for the travel promotion. That is essential. We see empty stands of Russia at international travel fairs.
Travel business is the business of a personality. I mean that people in tourism should communicate directly. We as a tour operator make connections with professionals in different countries.
What we`re proud of
This year we`ve won a grant from the Federal Agency for Tourism for the development of routs in Chechnya for disabled travelers. The Russian ministry will finance customized transport. For the moment we include in our tour packages the facilities, which have already special ramps and lifts. But we`re looking forward to increase the variety of tours for disabled people with new transportation vehicles. Our mission is to make the Chechnya Republic and North Caucasus region more accessible for everybody.