Despite the disintegration of its empire, Russia is still huge - stretching from the borders with Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey in the west, passing Kazakstan, Mongolia and China, to reach the Pacific Ocean some 6000km later. The landscape is predominantly flat, punctuated only by the Urals, which rise no higher than 1900m, and the more substantial ranges of the Far East. The three major rivers west of the Urals - the Dnepr, Don and Volga - all rise within 400km of Moscow and flow south into the Black and Caspian Seas. Russia's Far East is Siberia, with all its connotations of tundra, steppes, ranges, exile and mindblowing nothingness.
Due to its size, the land passes through several environmental bands. The northern forests of pine and spruce hide reindeer, wolves and brown bears. The mixed deciduous and coniferous forests are home to deer, lynx and the Siberian tiger (which has been known to wander into the suburbs of Vladivostok). The black earth steppes are the grain basket of Asia. Snow leopards, cheetahs, porcupines, gazelles, wild goats and the chamois grace the deserts of Central Asia, though pollution and fur-hunters threaten the existence of many species. There are over 140 state nature reserves, several of whose breeding programs have ensured the continued livelihood of animal species, including the European bison.
Moscow and St Petersburg share similar summer temperatures, both averaging around 24°C. Moscow is frozen by the end of November, with snow remaining until early April, and has an average January temperature of around -12°C. St Petersburg swings between lacking real darkness in summer to having only about five hours of murky light a day in winter. Its average January temperature is a sweltering -8°C. Spring in both cities brings the great thaw, the reappearance of vehicles on the road and a general sense of mayhem. Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast, experiences slightly milder weather than elsewhere in the Russian Far East. Its -13°C winter temperatures seem positively balmy compared to the northeastern town of Oymyakon, which just happens to be the coldest inhabited place on earth. Its winter temperatures drop to -65°C.
Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition Changes And Grows
The 15th anniversary edition of the MITT (Moscow International Travel & Tourism) exhibition took place recently in the Expocentr exhibition grounds in Moscow. MITT is the main exhibition for the industry in Russia and it is in the top five tourism exhibitions in the world. Every year, MITT signifies the start of the Spring-Summer tourist season.
Over 15 years, the exhibition has grown and undergone a number of changes. The launch event, held in 1994, featured 800 companies from 50 countries. Over the next five years, the exhibition became one of the largest and best attended events in the world.
This year, approximately 3,000 companies from 118 countries and regions participated in the exhibition, utilising 55,000 m², making it 11% larger than the previous year. MITT 2008 covered almost all of the pavilions at Expocentr, using Pavilion 8 for the first time. Many exhibitors increased their stand sizes substantially.
According to an independent audit carried out by Russcom IT-Systems (who are accredited by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry - UFI), MITT attracted an attendance of 92,000 - 12% higher than the previous year. The first two days of the exhibition were dedicated to professional visitors. Research indicated that 94% of the visitors during these two days were trade visitors.
Turkey became MITT's first ever partner country, presenting a stand of over 1,250 m² and featuring the Ministry for Culture and Tourism of Turkey and more than 500 additional companies. 20 March was pronounced ‘Turkey Day' at the exhibition and all participants were invited to the Turkish hall for traditional food and entertainment.
Greece also presented a large stand - 1,500 m², along with Italy, which had 1,000 m². Bulgaria, France, Belgium, Indonesia and Czech Republic also increased the size of their stands. A number of new countries took part in the exhibition and demonstrated their interest in the Russian tourism market, including Mongolia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, USA, Fiji, Dominican Republic and Kazakhstan.
This year, Russia was also better represented with stands from Nizhniy Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Kaluga, Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Karelia, Smolensk and other regions. The exhibition featured a joint stand for sanatoria and recreation centres from the Moscow region, as well as displays from the Association of Assistance to Tourist Technologies and River Cruises.
A number of events took place alongside the exhibition, providing an important element in the event. For the first time, MITT featured a business conference on 20 March, entitled ‘Tourism Industry 2008: Russian Regions - new opportunities for tourism development'. The conference was organised by ITE and one of the leading strategic consultancies in Russia, Strategy Partners. This was the first ever conference on such a scale to focus on the trends and prospects for the development of tourism in the Russian regions. During the conference, official world tourism statistics for 2007 were presented (UNWTO report), along with statistics on the competitiveness of Russia and its 46 regions in the tourism arena. In addition, the development of tourist and recreation zones in Russia and future development prospects were discussed, using Krasnodar Krai as an example. The conference was attended by top managers from Intourist, Accor, Baker & McKenzie, THR and many others.
The next edition of MITT will be held on 18-21 March 2009. More than 80% of this year's exhibitors have already applied for participation at MITT 2009.