Minsk can receive another doubtful award.
The CIS countries are represented in 3 out of 13 regional nominations. Belarus is the leader in the Back to USSR category; Azerbaijan is in top 3 in the category Discovery of the Year; Kyrgyzstan leads in the Health Recreation category, Radio Svaboda reports.
Lilia Kobzik, the editor-in-chief of Turizm I Otdykh newspaper, says it is a prestigious award. She notes she doesn't know whether to take it seriously or as a joke. National Geographic Traveler is a rather influential magazine among tour operators and tourists. Some of Soviet elements can still be found in Belarus:
“We have never promoted ourselves in this direction, because we see ourselves in a different way. But the award shows how the world sees us. It's interesting that Lithuania used this theme ironically and uses Soviet elements in restaurants and parks. But we have it in real time. It is can be a tourist trend. But we don't know yet how to use it and make money on it. This is not for mass tourism. It can be interesting only for some tourists, but the number of freaks wanting to see this social exoticism is not large.”
Valiantsin Tsekhmeister, the director of the Republican Union of Tourist Organisations, says we must take advantage of this image. No one has it, but we do. He thinks it can be destroyed easily, but it's far more difficult to preserve it:
“I've met with a Japanese journalist recently. What he said was a sort of a paradox for me. He was in Warsaw before the Ice Hockey World Championship, heard about Belarus and decided to visit it. He arrived at President Hotel. The taxi driver didn't even bother to help him with the luggage, no one met him at the hotel reception. He had to look for an administrator. But he said we should not fix it, because there's nothing like this anywhere in the world. We should show it in an attractive way and sell it.”