With direct flights from London and continued investment in infrastructure, Moscow and St Petersburg have been the obvious choices for planners considering Russia for meetings and events. Moscow is set to become increasingly attractive, with the city making a concerted effort to attract large-scale meetings.
Last August, the Department for Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship of the Moscow Government launched the Moscow Convention Bureau, to further the destination's potential as a place for hosting business events. According to Ksenya Boykova, head of Moscow Convention Bureau, one of its main tasks is to create a 'single window' for Russian and international congress planners.
"The Bureau is developing an information resource and determining a partnership programme for the academic and business communities to combine efforts and successfully attract first-rate conventions and forums to the city," she says.
Chetan Shah, account director at The Black Tomato Agency, lists Russia among his top destinations for incentive events, having travelled there with BMW in 2013. He says that given recent political events, Russia needs to be considered carefully as a destination for meetings and incentives, a view shared by Tamsin Denholm, client services executive, Capita Travel and Events. "Planners are unlikely to choose an event location that makes delegates nervous, especially if conference return on investment is dependent on maximising delegate attendance," she says. "Perceptions of unrest and risks associated with a location can vary widely by company but can result in businesses choosing an alternative, even if Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice is favourable."
But, Shah believes, Moscow remains an appealing destination for events. "It is not the usual place that people choose so it will always be memorable," he says. "People are interested in Russia but may find it hard to visit the destination on a holiday, for example, so holding an event there gives them insight."
Shah recommends venues in Moscow including The Ritz-Carlton and Soho Rooms, and for incentives, ice-skating in Red Square, while Denholm suggests 'action' activities like tank driving, and says the hotels are of a high standard, too. St Petersburg still remains a firm favourite for C&I events, largely because of its history and location.
"It has a very strong non-European feel but it is a relatively short flight from the UK," says Les Sinclair, director, regional accounts at Global Cynergies. "As a result you get tremendous cultural impact from the destination itself without flying halfway around the world to get it. There's also an excellent range of hotels for groups that suit all budgets and types of event."
Developments there continue apace, with IHG debuting its boutique brand, the 119-room Hotel Indigo St Petersburg - Tchaikovskogo, in the city in March. The 170-room Holiday Inn, meanwhile, is due to open in the city in 2017.
"St Petersburg is a great location for incentives because you can plan unique programmes with palaces for dinner, for example," adds Denholm.
Other parts of the country are also looking to widen their appeal to event planners. Last month (June), the 175-room Novosibirsk Marriott Hotel opened in Western Siberia.
The property is positioned in a prime location in Russia's third-largest city on Lenin Square, opposite the iconic Opera House, and offers Novosibirsk's largest conference facilities on hotel grounds. Meetings and events may be held in any of the six meeting rooms, which offer 480m2 of space, accommodating more than 450 people.
Moscow Convention Bureau
Contact: Anna Ivanko
Tel: +7 49 52 25 54 77