Vladimir Putin in Tuva, Siberia, in 2017. Photo: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
Amid flight bans and bank cards not working abroad, the Kremlin is trying to keep Russian holidaymakers happy by advertising new domestic tourist routes, including one to the Siberian wilderness. “Siberian Holidays”, created by the Federal Tourism Agency, is a 1,200 kilometre route through Krasnoyarsk, Khakasia and Tuva, which includes some of Vladimir Putin’s favourite holiday spots.
Flight bans have been imposed by countries including the US, UK and EU nations in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, leaving many Russians looking for domestic vacation ideas.The Russian president has been photographed several times on his excursions to Siberian forests, enjoying topless fishing over mountain lakes or topless horse riding. He often travels with Sergei Shoigu, his defence minister, and in 2021 was photographed bonding with him over a meal in the woods.
The trip will set holidaymakers back 90,000 roubles per person (about $1690, £1,350) with the first group set to head out in July. The daily average temperature in the north of Siberia that month is 0 C (32 F), although the southernmost areas can go up to 20 C (68 F). Despite saying the package will be taking visitors to “the places where the president loves to relax,” tourists won’t actually be able to see the exact places themselves as the Kremlin does not identify the locations where Putin holidays. The agency is also spending 1.2 billion rubles ($21 million, £18 million) preparing 24 other domestic tourism routes, including the “Tsar’s Road” route between St. Petersburg and Moscow and “The Day Begins Here” on Sakhalin Island. While Russians can still travel abroad, a number of obstacles caused by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine may be making staycations more attractive. European destinations can’t be reached by a direct flight anymore after Russian airlines were banned from flying over Europe, meaning travellers would have to spend days driving or on public transport. Visa and Mastercard debit cards no longer work for Russians abroad, and lots of countries have slowed or stopped issuing foreign visas to Russian citizens.
Google Trends shows that searches for ‘Moscow Holiday’ in Russia have steadily risen since mid-March. Last month, Reuters reported that Russians spent 50 percent more on train tickets over the May holiday period than they did over New Year holidays.But not all Russian staycation points have been able to prosper.Crimea’s Black Sea beaches have been empty since Russia banned civil aviation to the area at the start of the war. In May, hotel bookings were down 40 percent compared to the same time last year.