The signature of an agreement between the Russian tourism operator Grand Baikal and a consortium of Chinese investors represented by the group Chungjingxin could result in the biggest development project ever realized in the region.
The site chosen to be the centre of the development project is precisely the one occupied until its closing in December 2013 by the Baykalsk pulp and paper mill. It is very symbolic since the latter had long been the region's primary polluter. Russian and Chinese investors promise to develop "modern tourism equipment, new transport connections, and new logistics infrastructure in order to guarantee development of tourist arrivals in the region." It is highly probable that if the project happens the result will be an unprecedented hotel development, as its cost could reach $11 billion.
Given China's geographic proximity, this Sino-Russian cooperation owes nothing to hazard. Baykalsk is located at the southern extrémity of the 636 kilometer long lake. Its unique natural environment and the practice of winter sports should offer a solid foundation for this new tourism impetus: the small ski resort Gora Sobolinaya, which welcomes around 150,000 tourists each year, is located nearby. Baykalsk can also be reached from Irkutsk, the biggest city in the region. That is where Grand Baikal Travel Company, the resort's owner and representative of the Russian stakeholders, is located. Around 750,000 tourists, mostly domestic, visit Lake Baikal each year.
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