When the committee was discussing the progress in the implementation of the state program Hospitable Belarus for 2016-2020, Chairman of the Braslav District Executive Committee Vladimir Dranevsky remarked that there could be much more tourists on the region's numerous lakes. Many of them are repelled by the need to obtain visas. According to Vladimir Dranevsky, for Europeans, who got used to crossing borders within the EU freely, visa processing is a cumbersome procedure.
The initiative was supported by Belarusian Deputy Sports and Tourism Minister Mikhail Portnoi who was attending the meeting in Vitebsk. He added that Belarus had earlier carried out a similar project: foreign tourists can visit the Augustow Canal visa-free. Brest Oblast has already asked the ministry to open a visa-free zone. If the ministry receives a similar request from Vitebsk Oblast, it will consider it, too. The keynote speaker was head of the Sport and Tourism Department at the Vitebsk Oblast Executive Committee Vasily Zakharevich. He told the media ahead of the session that the export of tourism services in the region jumped by 30% in H1 2017 from the same period a year prior. Health resorts account for 60% of the revenue.
“The Plissa health resort was inaugurated in Glubokoye District in 2016. It provides wonderful services and offers decent conditions. The health resort welcomes tourists from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and far abroad,” Vasily Zakharevich said. At the same time, he added, health resorts should not only be providing health services but also developing excursion tourism. “Everything should be taken as a whole. For instance, visitors were offered bus tours of Vitebsk when the city was hosting the Slavianski Bazaar festival. This service was in demand and received good feedback,” the official recalled. The region is also developing sports tourism. “Russian athletes eagerly go to training camps in Belarus, we host world-class competitions. The recent kettlebell lifting championship has brought together representatives of over 30 countries,” Vasily Zakharevich noted.
The oblast is the leader in agroecotourism development in Belarus. The number of farm tourism estates has been growing every year, making up around 620 in 2017. Vasily Zakharevich drew attention to the fact that the region should be building tourism infrastructure more actively. Vitebsk Oblast lacks parkings for tourist buses; there is little information about local landmarks and few relevant signs. “We should sort these things out and open more coffeehouses and common areas. District capitals lack ATMs. This means that when tourists arrive on a weekday, they cannot change money, and so on,” the official underlined.