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How small towns in Russia tried to build their own tourism brand: we have collected successful (and not so) examples

Tags: Kostroma | Russia | Marketing | Branding | Tourism | Regional economy | Moscow region | Kemerovo | Nizhniy Novgorod | Yaroslavl | Vladimir

Everyone knows that Rome is the capitoline she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus and since ancient times has become a symbol of the city. In an attempt to attract tourists, small towns in Russia are also trying to find their individuality - our gallery contains the most interesting examples.

Kostroma - the birthplace of the Snow Maiden


In 1998, Veliky Ustyug was declared the birthplace of Father Frost. This immediately sharply increased the flow of tourists to the Vologda Oblast and the revenues of the local treasury - it became obvious that fairy-tale characters, especially New Year's, are an extremely profitable tourist brand. In Kostroma, they quickly remembered that Ostrovsky wrote his classic fairy tale "The Snow Maiden" not far from Kostroma, which means that the city has every right to be considered the home of the granddaughter of Santa Claus.

The regional administration launched the project in 1999, but it essentially failed - it was not possible to agree with the grandfather that he would visit his granddaughter on the way from Ustyug to Moscow. The idea was forgotten for a while, until two Snow Maidens appeared in Kostroma at once - in 2003 local entrepreneur Mikhail Popov built the Terem Snegurochka and registered the corresponding trademark, in 2004 the city administration launched the Kostroma Snow Maiden program. This time it turned out to come to an agreement with Santa Claus (the fee was provided by the local budget), souvenirs and images of a winter sorceress appeared on the streets of the city.

However, there were still plenty of problems. In parallel with Kostroma, they tried to promote their own, "Zhigulevskaya Snegurochka" in Togliatti - the Volga residents did not spare money and tried to negotiate with the governor of the Vologda region on "recognition." In the village of Abramtsevo near Moscow, they recalled that Viktor Vasnetsov painted the first visual image of the ice girl there. In other cities there were also businessmen who built local "Snegurochka residences". Not everything was going smoothly in Kostroma itself - the city administration could not agree with Popov about the rights to the brand, it came to mutual claims - the two Snow Maidens were to meet in court. At some point, the parties found a compromise - now tourists in the city are told that a fairy-tale girl works in one residence, and lives in another.

One way or another - by the end of the 2010s, in the public consciousness, the Snegurochka brand was finally departed by Kostroma. Projects in other cities gradually died down, and the Kostroma sorceress was first invited to Moscow to present gifts to children at the famous children's store on Lubyanka. During the spring break, the city hosts the annual "Snow Maiden's Birthday", where fairy-tale characters from all over Russia come. The brand brings the region more and more tangible tourist dividends - the number of tourists visiting the region is growing from year to year, by the end of the decade exceeding the mark of 1 million people a year.

Bigfoot - a mystery of the Kemerovo region


In the oral work of the Shor tribes of Kuzbass, there is an image of the Master of the Forest: tall, covered with hair and with long arms. In some references, this mythical character is identified with the Bigfoot, who was allegedly seen in these places back in the 1930s. Sheregesh, the largest ski resort in Siberia, is located in about the same area, second only to the resorts of Sochi in terms of the number of visitors in the country.

In 2009, the Kemerovo authorities decided that the Yeti could help them attract new tourists to Sheregesh. At the same time, the local administration launched a message in the media that a footprint and fur of a Bigfoot was found in the Azarskaya cave. Since then, Kemerovo has been actively working to promote the Rodina Yeti brand. An annual holiday was established in Sheregesh - Bigfoot Day. Tourists were offered various symbols from the Yeti, and several monuments were erected to the creature itself (including a monument to the "Yeti family" at a gas station at the entrance to Sheregesh) and a mini-museum was organized.

The promotion company was very active and covered in great detail in the media. Bigfoot became the mascot of the local KHL hockey team Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Flashmob "Yeti are dancing", held in Kemerovo, has received 100 thousand views on Youtube. Bishop of Kemerovo Aristarkh and boxer Nikolai Valuev came to look at the mythical creature and take part in the campaign to popularize it. And the governor of the region, Aman Tuleyev, announced a bonus of 1 million rubles to those who succeed in catching the Bigfoot - dozens of enthusiasts went to the taiga in search of them (some even promised that they would not return until they found the animal).

However, the Yeti was never found. Scientists who examined the wool from the Azar Cave came to the conclusion that it belongs to a bear. Tuleyev's promised million in 2013 was handed over to the children's rehabilitation center, officially admitting defeat in attempts to find the mysterious creature. The brand has not been officially shut down, but the number of Yeti events and media mentions has plummeted since then.

What about tourist flows? In the end, no one found the Loch Ness monster, an example of which the Kemerovo PR specialists were inspired, but this does not prevent the Scots from earning annually on tourists who come to the famous lake. The number of visitors to the ski resort in Sheregesh as a whole has been growing all these years, as has the number of rooms. It is difficult to say how significant the yeti's contribution to this growth is. One way or another, the new regional administration plans to further popularize the resort, but it is already betting on improving transport accessibility and improving infrastructure.

Arzamas goose - an ancient breed and tasty meat


In Soviet times, the important center of the defense industry - the city of Arzamas - was visited daily by 10 to 25 groups of tourists. These were mainly school groups that planned to visit the house-museum of the writer Arkady Gaidar - in the Soviet school, the grandfather of the Russian reformer was a cult author. After perestroika, interest in the front-line writer declined, as did tourist flows to his small homeland - the city had to look for a new identity. In 2002, during the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the local history and art museum, the choice fell on the goose - it was destined to become the new tourist brand of the city.

Arzamas goose is an elite breed of Arzamas geese, which has been bred here since the 17th century. The goose was appreciated for its impressive mass (which it gained quickly enough) and tender tasty meat. In the fall, gigantic herds of goose drove on their own to Nizhny Novgorod and even Moscow - there they were expected to be eaten by the most influential individuals (until the 20th century, white poultry meat was considered a gastronomic delight in Russia). The title of "goose capital" was granted to the city by Catherine II during her visit to Arzamas. The Arzamas goose was a symbol (and was also regularly served on the table) of the famous literary society "Arzamas", of which A.S. Pushkin and V.A. Zhukovsky - writers highly appreciated the bird for its perky character and delicious meat.

The most interesting thing is that at the time of its revival as a tourist brand, the Arzamas breed was no longer bred and was gradually disappearing into history. Choosing a goose was not the only option - the city is known for a large number of interesting churches, wooden buildings in the city center with carved platbands, as well as unique gypsum mines in the nearest suburbs.

In 2012, a monument to a goose was erected on one of the streets of the city. In the same year, at the expense of the local instrument-making plant (produces equipment for aviation), an open-air gastronomic festival was held for the first time, which later became regular. The festival has become popular in recent years thanks to its proximity to Moscow, the participation of well-known Moscow chefs and the opportunity to bring their own food. At the festival you can see live geese and even their fights and runs - although you can not always taste their meat.

However, the city failed to return to the Soviet popularity - despite the large number of zest, the city has not been able to significantly increase the number of tourists over the years. In 2019, the goose theme leaves aside - the Government of the Russian Federation allocated substantial funds for the development of the Arzamas - Diveevo - Sarov cluster, which it was decided to position as a tourist and pilgrimage cluster (the nearby Diveevo is associated with the name of St. Seraphim of Sarov).

Myshkin is a ... mouse's city!


Myshkin of the Yaroslavl Region is a very small (only 6 thousand inhabitants) town located on the high bank of the Volga. According to legend, in the midday heat, Prince Mstislavsky, dozing on a high hill, woke up from the fact that a little mouse ran over it. The prince was about to catch the mischievous woman, but he saw a rattlesnake nearby and realized that the mouse saved him from inevitable death. At this place, he ordered the foundation of a chapel, and the nearby village called Myshkin.

Myshkin has a history typical of the Volga towns, but by the end of the 20th century, most of his achievements remained in the distant past. In the mid-1990s, the city was in a deep crisis - the lack of city-forming enterprises and poverty. The nearest large city - Yaroslavl - is 100 kilometers away. If the Volga steamships stopped here, then for a very short time - there was no zest in the city, and the necessary tourist infrastructure was completely absent.

Everything changed in 1996. The city hosted the first mouse festival. A separate event was the opening of the world's only Mouse Museum. The museum managed to collect mice from all over the world - both living and toy (including the heroines of various fairy tales). Actually, at the same time, a beautiful legend about the foundation of Myshkin was invented, which we described above. The city consistently set about creating a modern tourist infrastructure - hotels, cafes, reconstructed the Volga embankment (a piece of cobblestone pavement from the time of Catherine the Great was recreated). The restoration of old merchant mansions is carried out every year. Other interesting museums began to appear next to the mouse museum - the felt boots museum, the museum of interesting equipment, etc.

And although many small towns tried to work in a similar vein, Myshkin's success is primarily associated with a competent and creatively designed image of the main attraction. Here, not only the mouse is well beaten, but also its main antipode - the cat (for example, at the mouse festival, regular competitions are held between teams of cats and mice). Tourists are offered a wide variety of souvenirs - both sweet mice and soft toys. The city has well thought out the content of the excursions, which include a reference to the famous mouse images from fairy tales and cartoons. Myshkin focuses his marketing on families with small children - this is a fairly solvent audience and a well-suited main symbol for it.

Myshkin is considered to be an example of successful travel branding among Russian cities. Indeed, if in 1996 the city was visited by only 6 thousand tourists, then in 2016 - already 200 thousand, that is, more than 30 people for each resident of the city. In terms of the ratio of tourists and residents, Myshkin is undoubtedly the best in Russia and even dreams of competing with the largest tourist centers in Europe. All that was required was to play talentedly at the funny name of the city!

Klin is Tchaikovsky


Klin is a small town in the north-west of the Moscow region on the way to St. Petersburg. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky lived here for the last 8 years of his life. The estate of the great Russian composer is the only thing that distinguished the city from hundreds of other similar provincial places scattered across the territory of Russia.

In 2014, the regional government launched a campaign to brand and revise the visual image of small towns near Moscow. The creative group came up with the concept of "Wedge Sounds". The authors of the concept were inspired by the example of the Austrian Salzburg, which annually attracts millions of tourists and makes good money on the name of Mozart. Small architectural forms (including musical sculpture) were installed in the city, souvenirs on musical themes were developed, and large sums were spent on landscaping. Since 2015, the city has hosted the P.I. Tchaikovsky.

Wedge's rebranding is still difficult to call both successful and disastrous. Tourist flows to the city as a whole are growing, but here the proximity to Moscow, the availability of convenient railway routes and, in general, the tendency towards an increase in domestic tourism in the Moscow region are significantly affected.

The public reaction to the authorities' marketing research has varied. Branding was done by the same team that already drew the brand book for a number of other cities. Netizens found similarities with the visual style of Kursk. In addition, the slogan "Wedge sounds" sounded a little derisive to local residents. The fact is that the city is cut into four pieces by the Moscow-Petersburg highway, and which "sounds" not as pleasant as Tchaikovsky's melodies. The rebranding program also coincided with the garbage riots - after the closure of a number of landfills near Moscow, streams of trucks from the capital rushed to the local dump "Aleksinsky quarry" - the city began not only to sound, but also to smell for local residents.

Klin continues to retain its place in the second echelon of tourist attractive places in the Moscow region - noticeably yielding to Sergiev-Pasad, Kolomna and Istra. The rebranding in this regard did not change anything; it only slightly more vividly emphasized the musical identity that existed in the city before.

Kolomenskaya marshmallow: how to properly sell tastes and sensations


In the 2000s, the town of Kolomna near Moscow was a typical Russian province. The main local attraction - the ancient Kremlin - has fallen into disrepair. The same age as the Moscow Kremlin, back in the 18th-19th centuries it was partially dismantled by the townspeople for outbuildings. There are only 7 towers and 2 wall fragments left. Never taken by the enemy for its brick history, in the new century the Kolomna Kremlin was captured by homeless people who found here a comfortable refuge from snow and precipitation. The tourist flow was not great and was comparable to other cities near Moscow.

The tourist miracle of Kolomna is a rare example for Russia when the city acquired its identity thanks to a private initiative. In 2009, two local businesswomen, Natalya Nikitina and Elena Dmitrieva, organized a museum of Kolomna marshmallow. By the time the museum was organized, the recipe for the product that the city was historically famous for had been completely lost. Having shoveled a large number of archives, using the trial and error method, two women managed to restore (and possibly create anew, history is silent about this) the recipe for the famous Kolomna pastila. At the same time, the museum program was carefully worked out - the guides told in detail and fascinatingly about the secrets of the preparation of the product.

Encouraged by the success, women eventually opened a museum of another ancient delicacy - the museum of the roll. It turned out that this is a very profitable strategy - to sell that part of Russian history that tourists can taste, as they say, taste (and take with them as a gift). The entrepreneurs have relied on the reproduction of traditional historical technologies in traditional interiors. Most importantly, brands that have a historical connection with the city (albeit almost forgotten) have been restored.

Of course, it was not without the help of the city authorities. They actively popularized Kolomna marshmallow, treating it to guests of most official events, and helped with sites for museums. At the same time, the city was being repaired and rebuilt, infrastructure and public spaces were improved. Work was underway to restore the Kolomna Kremlin. Closeness to Moscow played a big role - Kolomna has become one of the most attractive destinations for "one day" travel from the capital. The confusion also helped with the main competitor - Belev of the Tula region is still only trying to rebuild a similar tasty brand and at some point got bogged down in the internal proceedings of the marshmallow manufacturers.

Today, the tourist flow to Kolomna is about 1.3 million people a year. For 10 years, it has grown more than 5 times. The tourist flow (about 1.5 million people a year) is only slightly higher in Sergiev-Posad near Moscow, and this is a city included in the "Golden Ring", as well as the country's largest center of pilgrim tourism. Pilgrims are known to be a much more stable audience, requiring less effort in terms of marketing and branding, as proximity to the shrine and, to a lesser extent, other infrastructure are important to them. Therefore, the success of Kolomna, along with Myshkin, is one of the best examples of work in the tourist promotion of cities.

Suzdal - a secret city or a cucumber?


Suzdal is the main tourist "small" city in Russia. It acquired its current status back in the Soviet years, when it became the capital of the Golden Ring. Suzdal is an open-air museum, one of the rare cities where an integral ensemble of medieval architecture has been preserved.

In 2000, the city launched the annual Suzdal Cucumber festival. The city began to be associated with cucumbers in the late Soviet period. The people of Suzdal massively cultivated cucumbers for sale in plastic greenhouses, put them in the trunk of cars and transported them to the nearest cities, including Moscow, for sale. For a season or two, it was possible to recoup the cost of the car.

The problem of Suzdal is that the city has historically had many associations and none of them was dominant. It is ancient architecture, medieval temples, cucumber, and the capital of tourism and small towns.

Associations associated with the city arose spontaneously and sometimes not always successful. In the 2010s, local authorities and representatives of the tourism business realized that tourists associate the city with expensive hotels and is not suitable for budget tourism. To change the situation, the "Suzdal Sacred" brand was developed. It is based on ancient Russian ligature and keys, designed to emphasize a large number of ancient secrets that a tourist has to unravel. The individuality for the city is complex, but, as the creators assure, the reason is the large number of associations associated with Suzdal.

Objectively speaking, all previous branding efforts have not yet yielded a significant effect - marketing campaigns have neither led to an increase in the number of tourists, nor to their reduction. However, the city remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

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