St. Isaac’s to End Higher Prices for Foreigners

St. Isaac’s Cathedral will charge Russian and foreign visitors the same price for entrance tickets from January 1st, 2011

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The price for entrance tickets to St. Isaac’s Cathedral will be the same for foreigners and Russians from Jan. 1, 2011, said Natalya Koreneva, deputy director of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral State Museum and Monument Complex on Monday.

Koreneva confirmed information about the price change published by Vedomosti at the end of October. The changes will also apply to the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, which belongs to the same group of museums.

The new entrance fee will be 200 rubles ($6.50) for all visitors, according to Koreneva. Tickets currently cost 130 rubles ($4.20) for Russians and 320 ($10.40) for foreigners.

Apart from the Museum of the History of St. Petersburg housed in the Peter and Paul Fortress, all of the city’s state-run museums retain the Soviet system of requiring foreigners to pay more than Russian visitors, while private museums usually have one fixed rate.

“This is a very good decision,” said Sergei Korneyev, director of the northwest branch of the Russian Tourism Industry Union.

“We have been discussing this issue with St. Petersburg museums for a long time. The price difference is a problem for our foreign partners, who find the situation difficult to understand and often complain about it. It will certainly have a positive influence on tourism in St. Petersburg.”

“Of course, the price for Russian citizens will rise, but we think that 200 rubles is fair. Going to the theater, for instance, costs a lot more. And the museum will maintain its current discounts for some categories of people such as pensioners and schoolchildren. It is not such a cardinal change; it will not scare Russian tourists or attract more foreign tourists. It was simply the right time to take the right decision,” he added.

Another popular attraction, the imperial summer residence of Tsarskoye Selo located 25 kilometers south of the city, also plans to follow suit. According to its press service, Tsarskoye Selo will have a “unified ticket price system for individual visitors in the near future, probably from next January.” The press service was not able, however, to give further price details or a precise date for the change.

The State Hermitage Museum and Peterhof estate, on the other hand, do not intend to follow the example of their counterparts.

“We also met with the management of both those cultural institutions, and the union has made clear its point of view, but they are not yet willing to take that step,” said Korneyev. Both museums expressed concern about the fact that such a change would necessitate an increase in the prices for Russian citizens.

“The process will be long and comprise many stages,” representatives of Peterhof’s management wrote in a press release after a meeting with Korneyev this summer.

The State Russian Museum also intends to maintain its current prices, its press service said Monday. The press service of the Mariinsky Theater, whose ticket pricing policy is one of the most punitive to foreigners, declined to comment when contacted by The St. Petersburg Times on Monday.

St. Petersburg museums reject criticism that the current system discriminates against foreign visitors, saying that prices for Russians and foreigners are in fact equal, but that Russian visitors can take advantage of a discounted price that also applies to foreigners living in Russia. Museums argue that the discount is justified by the fact that Russians pay taxes to support cultural institutions.

Source: St. Petersburg Times
9 November, 2010