With the Winter Olympics approaching in the coming weeks, Russia expects to make a killing with ticket sales, however, that hasn’t been the case and they are falling short when it comes to attracting American tourists.
Sochi may see the least Americans visiting the Olympic village near the Black Sea in 20 years. US tour operators blame the poor reception on a combination of things including terrorism fears, the lack of five star hotels, and difficulties obtaining visas to travel to Russia.
When the International Olympic Committee announced that Sochi would be the site for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia planned to spend $50 billion in infrastructure upgrades, including hotels, but it hasn’t quite worked the way it was intended.
The idea was to turn the sea side city into a year-round resort, however, existing hotels have jacked up their prices by 121 percent, according to the British travel website Trivago.co.uk.
Last week, Russia’s Olympics organizing committee said 30 percent of tickets remain available for the 2014 Winter Olympics and with little choices of direct international flights into Sochi and the difficulties obtaining visas, tour operators believe that there will be a large number of unsold tickets.
The last Winter Olympics, held in Vancouver, Canada in 2010 sold 97 percent of their tickets.
Robert Tuchman, president of New York-based Goviva, a sports and entertainment travel company said:
“There was a little hesitancy to start and now with everything going on, I don’t expect that we’re going to have a lot of people still coming to us. This is definitely, from a travel perspective, a low point in terms of a Winter Olympics that I’ve seen in the 20-plus years I’ve been doing it.”
The terrorist threats have created a damper in the usual excitement surrounding the Olympic games, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin assures the public attending the events, as well as the athletes that authorities are doing everything in their power to keep the Winter Olympics safe.
On January 10, the US State Department issued a travel alert for Russia following two suicide bombings in Volgograd at the end of 2013 that killed more than 30 people.
One way to attract potential ticket buyers is with discounts to local school groups, according to Janice Forsyth, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies in London, Ontario.
“It’s difficult to say how close to the mark Sochi will be considering the terrorism threat – that was something Vancouver didn’t have to deal with,” Forsyth said. “They need to show that they can run a successful Games, and selling tickets, even if they almost have to give them away, is one way to demonstrate that.”
The Sochi Winter Olympics are Putin’s pet project and as such, one can rest assured the Russian leader is actually doing whatever it takes to ensure participants and the public safety. If a terrorist attack was to happen on the games, it would be a great embarrassment.