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An Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

Dear Vlad,

I didn't know whether to address you as Prime Minister, President or Your Oil and Gas Baroniness, but out of respect I stopped short of dude. I know you're a busy guy what with the judo dvd and stashing that alleged fortune (will those journalists never stop their investigating?), so I thought I'd send you a quick heads-up on tourism in Mother Russia.

Firstly, what's up with that visa? You have to get someone to invite you into the country (who you pay a fee to), then you have to go to the embassy (who unsurprisingly take a fee) and then when you get to Russia you have to register the visa at every hotel (who also take a... wait for it... fee!). If I didn't know any better I'd swear you were trying to talk people out of visiting the Land of the Bear. And then there's all those uniformed characters (basically anyone who can match their pants to their shirt will try to be an authority in Russia) checking papers to see if they can fine tourists if they don't have all the papers registered and triple stamped. It's hardly welcoming with open arms.

Okay so let's say your visa checks out, then there's those 'tourist prices'. Nobody minds pay a few more kopecks for a few attractions but when you get into most museums there won't be any English (or French or Japanese, or... oh no wait there might be some German) signs so most tourists will feel like they've blown their cash to be confused. And how about that 'photography pass'? It can't be to protect the art works or historical artefacts, because otherwise there would be no photography at all. Plus museums seem to be staffed exclusively by cranky ex-Soviets with merit badges in yelling at photographers regardless of passes.

The weird thing is we still had fun in Russia and felt it could have a thriving tourism industry. Now I know you're going to tell me to take it to Medvedev, that he's running the show now and you're just the Prime Minister. But he's pretty busy looking out for Gazprom (the company he used to chair) and talking to the kids through his videoblogging. Tourism in Russia needs a take-charge, throw-people-on-the-ground, former KGB agent kinda guy to whip it into shape. Whaddya say, dude?

Warmest regards


PS. Alternatively you could run a competition like Queensland's Best Job in the World. I mean people are still telling me to enter and the winner was annouced a week ago. You could set yours in Siberia and even if it didn't bring any publicity, it could put a lot of journalists on ice.

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  1. Hey! Enjoyed reading all the stuff about Russia. I am now writing a dissertation on promoting Moscow as a tourist destination. Do you mind if I ask you several questions about your experience via email/skype/phone? Would be very helpful!


  2. Sure happy to trade emails. How can I contact you? I will moderate your reply so your email won't be public.


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