Destination development in Western Siberia: tourism governance and evolutionary economic geography

<p>Tourism development has often been identified as a tool for balancing negative effects of economic restructuring, especially in peripheral regions. Tourism-based activities often utilize the availability of abundant nature, but although most English language studies of destination development are presented from western contexts, examples from post-Soviet Russia are rare. Western Siberia is a periphery with access to natural resources and heavy industrialization but remotely located from domestic (Russian) and international markets, where tourism is often considered a saviour, especially for the regional economies. Stakeholders in this Russian resource periphery face challenges in managing governance and cooperation in destinations development due to frequent institutional, economic and social changes. Using evolutionary economic geography and based on primary sources and interview data, tourism development and stakeholder relations are assessed in three Western Siberia regions: Tomsk, Kemerovo and Altai Krai. Findings show that for tourism to make a significant contribution, it must be more central to the economic development agenda in all three regions. However, it is currently only achieving a permanent high-profile in one of them, being crowded out by other (mostly primary) industries in the other two. Although the specific tourism governance set-up varies between the three regions, it is clear that public tourism governance still sits somewhat uneasily between state control and the market economy. Tourism receives substantial public subsidies, especially in large-scale investment projects, which depend on federal support within a governance system where decentralization seems to be somewhat limited and unstable. As a result, the tourism path development in the Siberian periphery is highly dependent on state intervention and success in other sectors.</p>