Why Saint Petersburg?

By Ekaterina Volkhonskaya, Director-General of Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau

Ekaterina Volkhonskaya Director-General of Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau

Many countries have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How is Saint Petersburg currently dealing with this crisis?

When the pandemic came along nobody expected to see cities locked down longer than a few weeks, or people told to stay home for months at a time. Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Saint Petersburg did not become a less popular tourist destination and managed to consolidate its positions as an influential tourist market player and a leading tourist attraction throughout 2020.

The city started to expand its support of the tourism market and launched several innovative projects to help the sector reopen tourism-related businesses and manage their recovery in a way that is safe, attractive for tourists, and economically viable. We became the first city in Russia to join Safe Travels, the international WTTC program for safe tourism. For tourists this is a guarantee that the services provided by the city tourism organizations meet the necessary sanitary and safety standards.

Currently the city is getting the coronavirus outbreak under control and hospitality industry is slowly getting back onto its feet. With that major events gradually begin to start up again: the 24th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum is set to take place on 2–5 June 2021; the UEFA Euro Cup matches to be held between 11 June and 3 July; the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX), brought to the city by a member of unique Ambassadors program led by the Bureau, is to take place from 14 – 18 June.

Simultaneously, the domestic tourism market has increased. Russia is a huge country full of amazing places and great opportunities. The pandemic has once again reminded us of this, giving us a possibility to explore and promote our homeland.

The MICE industry is also struggling during these difficult times. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

I believe that this reset could actually improve business travel from both a health and safety perspective, and in terms of the actual mechanisms, which we have always wanted to test but never had the chance to.

As a result, stay-at-home restrictions have required many of us to adopt new ways and formats of communication. As well as millions around the globe, we began to hold virtual meetings using hybrid and digital solutions to host conferences.

Of course, we are still struggling to understand how quickly both business and leisure travel can recover, but we are confident that there is a growing deferred demand in tourism and offline meetings. It is hard to overestimate the effectiveness of in-person meetings especially when building business relationships. They are focused on human connections, require all participants to be fully present, and get to know the culture and traditions.

As for the Bureau, with the support of the Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, we have been actively working to attract significant international business events to the city. In the near future Saint Petersburg is hosting such large-scale world congresses and conventions as International Congress of Mathematicians ICM, World Energy Council WEC, Worldchefs Congress & Expo, International Geological Congress (IGC) and others.

Did you know, that…?

Saint Petersburg is proudly called an open-air museum with its historic centre and related groups of monuments inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The city offers an extraordinary range of itineraries, making business events exciting, educational, and insightful. Visitors have a unique chance to combine rich social activity among lavish palaces and museums with cultural programme and enjoy to the fullest the beautiful city, its history, cuisine, and traditions.

Thanks to its privileged location, Saint Petersburg is both a magical destination on its own and a starting point for exploring Russia, and high-speed Sapsan trains bring their passengers to Moscow in just a few hours. Add to that the seaport and international airport, facilitating global transport links and the introduction of an e-visa, and you will easily realize that Saint Petersburg is a perfect match for business travelers.

Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau's activities are aligned with the practices and standards of sustainable development. Our partners, city’s major venues and convention hotels also support this trend and hold the recognized sustainability certificates such as ISO, Green Key, Vitality Leaf, etc.

Where to meet?

There are currently over 200 MICE venues in Saint Petersburg: from truly modern facilities with a range of capacities to historical venues such as The National Congress Palace state complex, and the former residence of the Grand Dukes of the house of Romanovs. The city's luxury hotels are also courting business travelers with new meeting spaces and ballrooms.

Among key venues of the city is the convention-and-exhibition centre ExpoForum, with a total holding capacity of 10,000 people (68 conference halls),  It is the most cutting-edge venue of its kind anywhere in Russia – or Europe – for holding business and entertainment events of any size and format – exhibitions, conventions, forums, sports and cultural events.

Where to stay?

The best hotels in Russia's second-largest city and cultural capital are as magnificent as its myriad palaces, mansions, and cathedrals. Choosing where to stay will set the tone for a trip, whether it is in a sumptuous spa hotel, modern five-star, or cozy boutique. As of late 2020, Saint Petersburg’s modern-quality hotel stock amounted to 1107, among them 34 5-star hotels; 120 4-star hotels; 313 3-star hotels.

Wawelberg Hotel, Nevsky Prospect 7-9

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a new luxury hotel has opened its doors in Saint Petersburg, the 5-star Wawelberg Hotel. Located in one of the most interesting and unusual buildings on Nevsky Avenue, it is just 300 meters from famous Hermitage Museum and Palace Square. Cultural heritage of Russia, a masterpiece of architecture in the style of the Italian Renaissance, it was erected in 1911-1912 according to the project of talented Russian architect Marian Peretyatkovich. The building was built as a Petersburg Trade Bank commissioned by Mikhail Wawelberg, a member of the famous banking family of the Russian Empire.  
Wawelberg Hotel has 79 luxurious rooms and suites, 2 restaurants, 3 conference rooms, its own theater, cooking classes with the Chef and features a Spa & Wellness Center.

Radisson Sonya Hotel, Liteiny prospect 5/19

The only one of its kind, Radisson Sonya is a 4-star hotel with a distinct atmosphere and a unique design concept. Here you will feel the exclusive charm of the city and enjoy the very best views of Saint Petersburg. The design for this elegant boutique hotel was inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's famous novel Crime and Punishment – a legendary and fascinating story about repentance and redemption. The hotel features 173 rooms for business or leisure travelers and four conference rooms for a convenient venue in the city center.

How to get there?

Saint Petersburg is one of the largest transport hubs in Russia. There are Pulkovo International Airport, five rail terminals, and a seaport. Saint Petersburg is also linked to Russian and European cities via numerous highways.
Up to 13 high-speed Sapsan trains travel daily from Leningradsky Rail Terminal in Moscow to Moskovsky Rail Terminal in Saint Petersburg, taking between 3.5 and 4 hours. Click here for a detailed Sapsan train timetable.

Do you offer any special services/assistance for associations?

Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau provides international events organizers with institutional, PR and legal support. Institutional support includes organization of site inspections, providing detailed information about Saint Petersburg’s best DMC and PCO, suitable venues. Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau ensures the presence of city officials at the event as well as organizing support letters from executive bodies of State authority as a part of a bid submission.  

PR package consists of the presence of mass media and large information support in accordance with request and specific needs of an association. Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau’s aim is to make as easy as possible all formal procedures concerning harmonization of documents and visa application as well as presence of Government top representatives at an event. Moreover, there is also an established practice of a financial support from the Bureau for the successful organization of large-scale events.

Personal recommendation/insider tips?

My personal recommendation would be to check out locations listed in the unique project “New Tourist geography of Saint Petersburg”, which is carried out with the support of the Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development. The aim is to further the involvement of creative spaces in modern excursion routes and attracting new categories of tourists.

Among locations listed is the New Holland Island - a triangular man-made island between the Kryukov Canal, the Admiralty Canal, and the Moyka River. New Holland is a buzzing hub of cultural life in the city. Concerts, performances, exhibitions, sporting events, lectures, seminars, parties and much more regularly take place on the island’s territory. In addition, home to several restaurant projects, New Holland has a lot to offer foodies from all over the  world: Vietnamese, Georgian, Israeli, Mexican, Italian. It also features lavish, high concept restaurant - Cococouture, a place with complex, visually evocative dishes such as a Fabergé egg created out of white chocolate with caviar, hollandaise and gold that recalls the famous Easter jewel that Tsar Alexander III gave to Empress Maria Feodorovna each year. Or a stunning crème brûlée that takes the form of a cameo.

Whom to contact?

For more information, contact Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau:
+7 (812) 679-61-33
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