Plans by Russian authorities to make Moscow a more “tourist-friendly” place could be given a lift with the announcement of a new multi-lingual Dial-a-Guide telephone service that has been proposed.
The new plan calls for specialist tourist information call centers to be set up during the summer, ready to field calls from foreign visitors looking for information on where to go as well as advice when they get into difficulties.
The tourist phone service will be available 24 hours a day and calls will be free, said the Moscow Tourism Committee in a statement.
Moscow has taken a lot of flak from tourists for its lack of facilities and general traveler-unfriendliness, and this has spurred on authorities to try and improve things. They recently announced they would invest 6.5 million roubles into the project.
Englishman Rob, who last visited the Russian capital for a football match back in 2005, said that he would have had a much better time in the city if he could have found someone who could speak English.
“The phone line would have been useful for when the cops fleeced me and my buddy for $25 for doing nothing at all,” he complained to the Moscow News.
Rob went on to suggest that an English speaking emergency operator would be able to translate and mediate in other kinds of situations too.
He also thought it would be good for tourists to discover if attractions were open or not on a particular day. “We tried to go and see Lenin, but when we got there we saw that the place was closed that day,” he said.
But not everyone believed that the helpline will be so useful. Polina Frolova, a director of marketing at the IFK Hotel Management firm said that it would be unlikely to increase the number of foreign visitors arriving in the capital.
She believes that instead of wasting money on call centers, the money would be better spent on a professional, multi-lingual website that encourages previous visitors to sell the idea of a Moscow holiday to others.
“The call centers might be handy for the people already here, but unless you already know something about Russia and Moscow, why on earth would you come here?” she said.
A website has actually been planned by the tourism committee, but it won’t be ready for at least another couple of years, it says.
The committee also plans to introduce digital guide book mobile apps for the city, and they hope to introduce various other travel-related gadgets by the end of this year, said Sergei Shpilko, the tourism committee’s spokesman.