Seminar in Karelia
: 03/06/2008

Seminar "Ethnotourism as the Mechanism to Improve Socio-Economic Status of Indigenous Peoples of Karelia" took place in Petrozavodsk on May 24 25, 2008. The meeting was held in the bounds of the project "Network on Promotion of Indigenous Rights" with the assistance of L'auravetl'an Information and Education Network of Indigenous Peoples.
Rural tourism firm's top managers, guest houses' hosts, representatives of rural consumer's cooperative societies of Karelia took part in the seminar. Many of them were indigenous representatives. They discussed the following relevant issues:
- Use of rites, folk crafts, traditional economy of Karelian indigenous peoples in ethnotourism.
- Rural tourism. Its role in the tourism market.
- Official registration of a guest house. Ways to improve its image.

They also tendered offers to the development program of rural tourism in investigation and training; demand analysis and consequent standards engineering; promotion in the external market.
The participant of the seminar made special mention of lack of legislative base and well-defined terms of rural tourism, insufficient information awareness and incompetence of hosts, and the problem of promotion of the service in the market.
About 60 hosts in Karelia are engaged in rural tourism in a professional way today, and about 500 hosts work unsystematically (in frontier villages first of all). Rural tourism products need in Russia exceeds today's abilities twice or thrice in spite of absence of purposeful advertising of travel agencies.
Unfortunately, travel agencies do not know how to develop this kind of tourism and they do not want to do it, because analysis and promotion cost money. That is why stable government support is needed.
It is known from experience that one guest house in a village that attracts about 10 tourists helps to employ another 4 12 people (hosts; carriers; fishing and hunting assistants: sellers of personal subsidiary plots' products; craftsmen; fishermen; hunters). Indigenous representatives of Karelia should first of all be engaged in these fields for sure. Indigenes are often "exploited" (their houses are visited by tourists, they present souvenirs, they are asked to cook traditional dishes, etc.), but they do not become employed officially. It means that they have no time record, no pension assessments, etc. The participants regretted that indigenous and local people should make much more efforts to make progress in travel business than Muscovites, for example. Such exploitative treatment is offensive, though tourists come to local people to get "local colour" in any case.
As a result, the participants came to the conclusion that they should learn how to be equal partners and find ways of mutually profitable cooperation.
Yelena Merzova,
Director of Informational Legal Center of Karelian Republic