September 01, 2005

Cracking the Tourism Nut

Kazan has potential as a tourist attraction. It is linked to other major administrative and transport centers by rail and is served by two airports: a freight-and-local not far from the city center and an international, some 15 km from the city. During the summer, there is the added bonus of traveling up or down the Volga by boat. Cruises of various durations, from three days to a fortnight, provide access to truly breathtaking scenery as well as a chance to explore places of cultural and historic interest.

The main obstacles to Kazan becoming a bustling international hub relate to its outlying location and its obscurity. First, there is the transport issue. Trains serving the city are incredibly sluggish: it takes twelve hours to cover the 500 miles from Moscow. Planes are fast (90 minutes from the capital) and frequent – there are six daily flights to and from Moscow by three different airlines, but they can be expensive for some (about $100, vs. $30 by train). Second, the mid-range tourist accommodations are only beginning to develop. Oil executives can enjoy places like Mirage or Safar, air-conditioned havens of luxury. But average, middle-class travelers have fewer options than you would normally expect in a city of over a million souls.

Nonetheless, should you venture Kazan-ward, here is a lightly-annotated listing of the city’s main hotels.

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