Siberian Altai Regions to Develop Rural Tourism and Casinos

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Mar. 18 – The French Tourism Institute will help Russia’s Altai region (Altai Krai) to develop a rural tourism, Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports.

A memorandum of understanding was signed earlier this week between the authorities of Siberian Altai region and the Paris-based Tourism Institute during Moscow’s annual tourism fair Intourmarket 2011.

“French professionals are ready to share their knowledge of industry. The institute experienced productive cooperation with China’s Anhui Province, where together with local authorities they preserves ancestorial forms of life, community customs, and rural architecture,” Altai region official said to the news agency.

He also added that Altai region can easily provide international tourists with all kind of rural tourism activity, including fishing, hunting, mushrooming and picking wild berries.

Almost US$146,000 has been allocated for the rural tourism development from the regional budget last year, which allowed for additional private investments into the industry.

French professionals are going to help regional government to attract foreign investors as well.
Funds are required for recreation equipment and the regional infrastructure development.

The Altai Republic neighboring Altai region, where construction of the first of several five-star resorts will begin soon, has chosen another way to develop the region – to become the Vegas of the East, officially dubbed as “Siberian Coin.”

In 2008, at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s behest, Russia banned all gambling except in four far-flung regions. Casinos are open in three: Kaliningrad, between Lithuania and Poland; Azov City, near the Black Sea; and the Primorye region, in the Far East.

The remote region of Altai Republic, located near the China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan borders, is emerging — and the government hopes that it will create jobs and generate ancillary business.

The ultimate plan for the Altai Gaming Zone is to establish 15 casinos, 10 entertainment centers, and 30 hotels that can accommodate up to 3,000 visitors.

The Russian officials believe the gaming zone project, which has been determined to cover 2,000 hectares of land, will cost about US$1 billion.

Michael Boettcher, president of Storm International, which owned and managed 25 casinos throughout Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod before they were forced to close, thinks that it will cost US$50 billion to develop the Altai Republic into a gaming Mecca.

RIA-Novosti has reported that the Russian development company Alti is spending US$14.4 million on two 100-room hotels.

Last year, Slovenia’s Hit Company and Hong Kong casino tycoon Albert Yeung, were reported to announce their intention to cooperate with Siberian Coin.

The first hotel is scheduled to open as early as 2012.
The first Soviet Union casino was open in the late 1980s in Moscow’s Savoy Hotel for only foreign nationals. The first casino for Russian citizens was launched in 1991.

By the end of 2000, Moscow had over 200 casinos, over 2,100 slot machine parlors, and over 35,000 slot machines in country regions. Soon after the business almost went out of control, and many slot machines were installed illegally.

The Altai Republic, located in the very center of Asia, is sparsely inhabited by a mostly rural (73.6 percent) 207,000 population. Ethnic Russians make up 57.4 percent of the population while 30.6 percent are Altai ethnicity and about 7 percent are Kazakhs.

The republic is a highly agricultural region with some industry which includes foodstuffs, non-ferrous metallurgy, chemicals, gold mining, footwear, dairying and timber.