Russia considers opening inland rivers to tourism

Unspoiled wilderness of waterways could attract not only seasoned yachters

The Russian government is rumoured to be considering opening up the country’s gigantic network of inland rivers to foreign tourists. At the moment, boating through Russia needs a vast amount of permits and paperwork, but doing away with all that could give Russia a unique niche in the increasingly popular river-cruise and sailing-holiday markets.
Some insiders believe that Russia’s unspoiled wilderness of waterways could attract seasoned yachters away from favoured destinations such as the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Baltic. “How many places can you travel to where you won’t see a single person for hundreds of miles?” says one. Comparisons can be drawn with Canada, the major difference being that Canada has a much more sophisticated marine infrastructure. Russia has essentially none, and also needs a shift in cultural attitudes where river police do not constantly interfere with tourist trips that may or may not have the right documentation.
“Canal and river holidays are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, particularly in places like England and France – where there are huge waiting lists for renting river boats and it can be very expensive,” says a tourist industry expert. “Russia has a beautiful and varied landscape, so it could certainly find a potential market as a cheap and unusual alternative in what appears to be a very healthy industry.”
[pictured: “A Fresh Wind” by Isaak Levitan]