A helpful partner

02/ 07

The revival of the Russian provinces has become the proverb and the byword. And here it comes – now the regions have come up with practical schemes to that effect. They mostly deal with eco- and agrotourism, which is being aided by public-private partnership.

Public-private partnership (PPP) arises where the state is unable to solve socially sensitive issues and business sees a commercial interest and new opportunities for investment. Thus, for example, development of eco- and agrotourism in the Russian provinces is considered to be an area of interest for PPP that is capable of generating income and streamlining social processes. According to Vladimir Akhapkin, Director of RDI’s project “New Moscow”, such method of cooperation is simple and clear: “The state provides for the required engineering infrastructure, including construction of the roads and development of the traffic system. As for private business, it invests into hospitality industry (builds hotels and restaurants, restores architectural monuments by adapting them for contemporary use, develops cultural, museum and tourism programs) thus creating new jobs. This is what public-private partnership is about.” As a result, the economics in the regions develops, social pressure subsides, new growth opportunities emerge.

As Akhapkin says, “pilot projects for eco-villages, eco-farms and eco-settlements are still few, but they do exist”. Dahlia Hussein, the analyst of the Center of Territorial Initiatives “Archopolis”, takes a similar view: she notes that at present the share of PPP in the sphere of eco- and agrotourism in Russia only accounts for 1.5-2% of the total number of tourism-related projects, however, already today it is clear that it will be growing, because already a number of regions (Belgorod, Leningrad, Kaluga, Kaliningrad, Tambov Regions, Karelia and Chuvashia, Moscow environs and Altai Krai) have adopted target programs for development of agricultural tourism on the basis of PPP. At present, according to experts, 65 of such programs are being implemented, with investments of about 37 billion roubles, of those about 32 billion roubles, i. e., almost 85% of the total amount, come from private investors.


In 2010 owners of a large land plot in Tula Region (their names are not disclosed) decided to create an art-cluster at the site of abandoned farms, and delivered their 350 hectares to young architects for use. This is how ArchFerma appeared, where young talents mix together, learn and create original art objects. The torchbearer and the father of ArchFerma was architect Ivan Ovchinnikov, who finances the project together with the owner of the site. He rebuilt the dilapidated cowsheds into modern hotels with comfortable rooms, and now they accept tourists, ArchFerma’s guests. After the tour of the farm they may go picking mushrooms, or fishing in the local small river, or they may stay at the workshops and make furniture and do pottery, or go painting outdoors. Annually the ArchFerma is visited by 5,000 - 7,000 tourists from all over Russia. However, the return on investment is still slow, most of the money comes from hospitality services, fee-paying events and lease of production premises.

“In the two years while ArchFerma exists, we have made friends with the local authorities”, says Ovchinnikov. “They provide moral support and the necessary engineering infrastructure. And we hire locals when we can, and organize various cultural events – festivals, creative contests, exhibitions, which attract tourists”. For example, the joinery enterprise and festival infrastructure of ArchFerma provide permanent jobs for 5-6 people from the nearby villages.

A similar project was conceived by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Svyaznoy and President of Svyaznoy Group of Companies Maxim Nogotkov. In 2007 he set his sights on the idea to create a landscape architecture park – a creative project for young architects. He invited architect Nikolay Polisskiy to help, and bent steps towards Kaluga Region. In the village called Nikola-Lenivets, at the place of the moribund collective farm, they laid out a park. “I believe that human ability to dream and do "useless acts of beauty" has to be nourished,” explains Nogotkov. “Such support, in my opinion, may be created through the promotion of creative environment that provides for the opportunity to meet like-minded people and make the craziest ideas come true.”

Nikola-Lenivets hosts the annual summer festival “Archstoyanie”, presentations of modern art and landscape design projects, the park is continually replenished with new art objects that attract tourists from other regions. Last year alone saw the tourist flow of 26,000 people. The total cost of the project is estimated at 3 billion roubles, of those 303 million roubles were earmarked from the federal and regional budget for the construction of utility facilities and reconstruction of the access road that leads to the site. The expected payback period is nine years.

“On behalf of the state we see great interest in this form of cooperation,” comments the investment analyst of the Center of Territorial Initiatives “Archopolis” Dmitry Tsygankov, “which finds expression not only in allocation of budget funds, but also in administrative support that is provided both at the regional and municipal level”.

Another art project, Historic Events Reconstruction Park, is being built by RDI in partnership with the state. Therefore the village of Ryazanovskoe located 8 km from the Moscow Beltway will soon become a major tourist attraction. Apart from the zone for mass events, it will comprise an ethnographic village with guest houses, amusement rides, restaurants and spa. The investments will make up 2 billion roubles. The completion of the construction is scheduled for the year 2018.
“The theme park is a vivid example of partnership between Moscow government, administration of Moscow Region and the developer. We are implementing the project entirely with our own means, whereas the city has included the development of the road infrastructure adjacent to the park into its plans,” says Vladimir Akhapkin.

However, one should make things clear at once: in this case the park is a sort of “supplement” to an absolutely commercial project, namely, construction of housing and hotels. “An investor does not gain directly from investment into parks, eco-zones and art objects, since they take a long time to pay back, and they pay little,” Akhapkin admits. “However, the presence of a park near a housing estate increases the value of the latter. Besides, investments into such objects contribute to the developer’s reputation and brand recognition.”

For dessert

But the most romantic PPP-based project was conceived in Kolomna. In 2008 culture expert Natalia Nikitina and Elena Dmitrieva, a former economist from the local sweets factory, which had been in the red for a long time, and therefore, was shut down, suggested to the municipal officials creating the museum of marshmallow that the locality was famous for in the factory’s territory. The authorities supported the idea. “The participation of the state represented by the municipal authorities was setting of the preferential lease rate for the factory’s premises,” explained Dahlia Hussein.

The funding was provided by charity fund Kolomensky Kremlin, while Natalia and Elena invested their own funds into the project. All in all about 13 million roubles were raised. It took the businesswomen over a year to complete design works, after which they proceeded to refurbishment. First they restored the old factory building that used to belong to merchant Petr Karpovich Chuprikov. The premises had no utilities whatsoever, they even lacked a sewage system. The utilities systems were installed by the local authorities on account of the municipal budget.

On 24 January, 2009 the museum opened its doors to visitors, and already in 2010 the project “Marshmallow Museum Factory in Kolomna” won the contest “Our future”, which is annually held by Kolomna fund of regional social programs, and received 4.2 million roubles in order to restore the rest of the factory premises in the form of interest-free loan for four years. Another million roubles for the reinstatement of the factory equipment and historical restoration of the preserved machines in the form of a grant came from Vladimir Potanin’s Fund. As a result, in the same 2010 year repair works commenced in the old annexe of the estate the merchants Suranovs’ abutting the factory under the supervision of architect and restorer Yulia Matychina. It has been decided to adapt it to the museum’s needs as well – it will house an art school, a tea house and a sweet shop.

According to the information published at the portal kolomnaonline.ru, since the year 2009 the museum has been annually attracting about 50,000 tourists. They see the exhibition, participate in the marshmallow making process and then taste it with great pleasure. An hour-long costumed tour with tasting costs 300 roubles. Tourists stay in one of the five Kolomna’s hotels, which receive a stable income as a result. Local residents who own private houses also have an opportunity to supplement their incomes: they supply fruits that they grow in their gardens and dairy products to the factory. The factory employs 27 people: 12 of them continue scientific and restoration works, 15 people are engaged in production proper.

Another agrotourism facility implemented in the PPP format is the eco-farm in Konovalovo-2 located 120 km from Moscow. It features a hotel with 34 rooms, a conference hall, a cafe, a garage and an outdoor car park, as well as an aerodrome for helicopters. The total amount of investment made up 55 million roubles; of those 20% have been earmarked from the regional budget. Konovalovo-2 is capable of accepting up to 5,000 people a year. Tourists come primarily in order to visit the eco-farm, where in addition to the usual cows and ducks ostriches are bred, to pick mushrooms or to do fishing. Upon request even a hunting sortie may be organized. One can also work at the farm or at the bee-garden. In this way the provinces are gradually picking up, turning into promising regions that are interesting for tourists to visit, and for the locals – to live and work.