Russia’s capital, Moscow, is not always the go-to destinations for Americans venturing overseas. Business Traveler spoke with the Moscow Government Minister and Head of the Department of Trade and Services, Alexei Nemeryuk, to learn more about why “festival tourism” is a focus for boosting international tourism.
BT: Moscow was long considered to be a city for politics and business, but that appears to be changing from a tourism perspective. Tell us why.
One of the main reasons for this is the introduction of the urban street festivals. We held the very first ones in 2013, and in 2016, we united them under the name of the “Moscow Seasons.” Since then, we’ve held about 60 large-scale city-wide events, such as the annual “Journey to Christmas” festival, the international singing contest Moscow Spring A Cappella, the landscape design competition Flower Jam, the historical re-enactment Times and Epochs, the gastronomic Golden Autumn and many more. All the festivals feature hundreds of free activities such as live concerts, theater performances, sport shows, cooking classes, and craft workshops.
Cultural and educational tourism are particularly of interest to millennials looking to go beyond the traditional sights and museums. Since the very beginning, our “Moscow Seasons” series of street festivals has seen growing interest from Europeans, and now, among Americans, too. We hope that continues.
BT: What festival might be of most interest to Americans?
There are so many, but there is something magical about visiting at Christmastime. Our holiday celebrations feature a variety of picturesque markets, choirs caroling, Russian figure skaters and ice ballet dancers performing, and the city’s streets and stores illuminated in colorful lights. This is Europe’s largest Christmas festival and lasts between mid-December to early January. If you’re lucky, a gentle snowfall will add that something extra to the experience. This winter’s festival drew more than 26 million people to enjoy activities spread across 81 city venues.
BT: What is so special about Moscow “City Days?”
This is our annual birthday celebration with free concerts, amusement rides, markets, competitions, and cooking demonstrations. The city center streets, including the famous Tverskaya Street lined with luxury outlets, are completely blocked off so pedestrians can roam through Red Square and surrounding neighborhoods.
BT: Do visitors need to speak Russian to enjoy the events?
Live music concerts, sport events, outdoor theatrical performances and the famous Russian ballet require no translation. For the festivals, we have made the experience easier with both English and Chinese websites, translations for menus and signs around the city, and increasing the number of English-speaking volunteers and guides.
BT: Is there a central area where visitors can gather if they are not sure where to go?
In regards to the festivals, the central venues, located next to the Red Square—such as those at the Manezhnaya Square, the Revolution Square and Tverskaya Street—seem like the best choice as they give the complete impression of what to expect. Another great place to visit is the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (known as the VDNH), which offers a huge choice of exhibitions and fun activities for the whole family to enjoy.
We believe the best way to experience a destination is to interact with locals making these festivals an ideal time to visit.
For more information, visit https://moscowseasons.com/en/.