My thanks to Marina Kuchurkina who took an eight-hour train ride from Moscow to St. Petersburg to give me a spa tour and teach me about the spa industry in Russia. Even though her English is very good, she arranged for an interpreter so that we could communicate flawlessly. Over cappuccino at the Grand Hotel Europe, she graciously answered all my questions.
She comes from the beauty industry and now publishes the first trade magazine in Russian for spas called Spa Report, whose circulation is around 3,000. She also formed an organization called the Russian National Spa Industry Guild and established a training academy to train students in spa therapies and spa management. Marina also does consulting. Her enthusiasm is admirable, and I greatly appreciated her willingness to share her time and knowledge with me.
There are other key players in the development of the Russian spa industry, and it is interesting to watch how – just like here in the U.S. – not all players get along or have the same vision. What they may not see yet is that all the pioneers of this emerging industry are important – because they help build a critical mass. If the Russian spa industry develops in a similar way to those of other countries, in later stages there will be greater appreciation for those who blazed trails.
Also of note in my travels…Many hotels and resorts are vying to attract the Russian traveler. And I heard the same things from everyone: Wealthy Russians are very wealthy; they pay cash for everything; they love spas; and they always begin by ordering whatever treatment is the most expensive.
I really look forward to a future trip to Russia – perhaps next time I’ll visit Moscow. I understand there are several major hotel brands with spas there opening soon. And I hope to get into the countryside to experience an authentic banya.