In August, 2016 the Chinese city of Changchun hosted the 21st summit of international exchange and cooperation of Northeast Asian regional administration officials. The forum was attended by delegations from Russia, China, Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Japan. High-ranking representatives of these states discussed important issues of trade, transport, and environment cooperation.
It’s been reported that a considerable amount of attention was paid to the development of regional tourism, in which Russia’s Primorye will play a pivotal role. In particular, the possible creation of a permanent tourist route that will connect Primorye, the Republic of Korea, China and Japan attracted a lot of attention at the forum.
The plans that were announced at the forum were soon put into motion, as the parties got down to work immediately. In October 2016 Primorye received a delegation from South Korea that arrived to discuss the details of the new project. The delegation was headed by Pak Tae-wook, the head of the Maritime tourism center of Kangwon Province, that announced that Vladivostok would soon become a pivotal hub for the Asia-Pacific voyage tours. The capital of the Primorsky region has already received a cruise liner from South Korea back in May 2016. It’s been reported that Vladivostok produced a lasting effect on the passengers of the gorgeous Costa Victoria. It has become clear now that the development of tourism in Primorye can bring huge profits for both Russian and Korean governments. According to Park Tae-wook, in the course of the next year Costa Victoria will dock in Primorye six times. With the addition of charter flights and other cruise lines, it’s safe to say that Korean tourists will be visiting Vladivostok every month. In February 2017 the tourist route will encompass China’s Tianjin port, South Korea’s Busan and Sokcho, and Japan’s Sakayminato and Hakata. When the project becomes fully operation, the total number of cruise liners visiting Primorye will increase threefold.
As it has been noted by Mr. Pak, a number of the upcoming Olympic Games in the region will provide this venture with additional momentum. The next three Olympics will be held in Asia, namely in South Korea, Japan and China. Against this background sea and air tourist traffic in the region is not simply getting more important but also more profitable.
In general, it should be noted that as Vladivostok gradually transfroms into a pivotal hub of the Northeast Asia, it provides the whole of Primorye with economic benefits and investments. This has become possible due to the adoption of a law that would allow foreigners to stay up to 8 days in Vladivostok without a visa.
According to the International Cooperation Department of the Primorsky Territory, this year Vladivostok is to be visited by more than 500 thousand foreign tourists. In addition to the Costa Victoria, Vladivostok has already harbored five foreign liners, including the German Artania, the Japanese Nippon Maru. In July, the capital of Primorye was visited for the first time by the famous cruise liner Sun Princess, that was traveling from Sydney to Tokyo, via Malaysia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul. This huge ship, with its length of 261 meter can accommodate up to 2,200 passengers. Despite the fact that since there are much larger cruise liners, it remains one of most famous and comfortable tourist boats. The arrival of such a world-renowned vessel to Vladivostok is an indication that it’s gradualy becoming one of the key Asia-Pacific ports.
Another important event in 2016 was the first visit to the seaside capital of China’s tourist liner Chinese Taishan. Despite the fact that it’s not nearly as big as the giant Sun Princess and that it is outfitted for middle-class travelers, the arrival of Chinese Taishan is a significant event nontheless. It should be recalled that due to the increase in the welfare of Chinese citizens overseas trips have become a sort of a trend in China, that may soon become a backbone to a stable tourist flow that will be growing every year.
The last cruise ship to visit Vladivostok in 2016 was the Pacific Venus, that docked in this Russian port on 20 October. It traveled from Japan, whil making a short stay in the South Korean port of Busan. The Pacific Venus is one of the largest cruisers in the region and it is the second largest Japanese ship.
Speaking about milestone events, one cannot overlook the reopening of a once popular ferry line: Sokcho (South Korea) – Zarubino (Russia) – Hunchun (China). A tripartite agreement that would allow this development to take place was signed during a meeting of NEA governors. Next summer a new ferry will be carrying more up to 1000 tourists along with large volumes of cargo between the above mentioned ports. The flow of foreign tourists to Zarubino will boom in February 2016 as the Ministry of Culture has already started an initiative to allow foreign tourist a no-visa stay in this port too.
It’s hard to argue these days the notion that tourism should not be underestimated. In addition to the large profits that it brings in itself, it also contributes to the development of international cultural and trade relations. Tourism leads to the prosperity of a region, provides advertising, international prestige and the influx of investors. With regard to maritime travel routes, their development is inextricably linked with the development of shipping in general. Thus, the efforts of Primorsky Krai to attract tourists from Asian countries will result in the rapid economic growth and the strengthening of Vladivostok as a major Asian-Pacific port.
Sofia Pale, PhD, Research Fellow of the Center for South-East Asia, Australia and Oceania of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine – “New Eastern Outlook.”