As the President of Roadtrips, I get the very special opportunity to go ahead of major world sporting events and spend a good chunk of time in host countries and cities often years before events actually happen. Right now that means that I’ve been working in Russia and I’ve gone from lukewarm to falling in love with this country as the setting for the 2018 World Cup.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all affected by our learned assumptions and the media noise (say Hello, Brazil!) that often distract us from the true picture of various parts of the world. Of course, on the ground so many of those misgivings fall away as we learn the charms and special attractions of a place and learn that whatever problems a destination may have, they are often not really in sight when we experience the warmth and hospitality of the locals and the beauty of all it has to offer.
So with that in mind, I’m getting really excited about Russia and the wonderful experiences our guests are going to have the summer after next at the World Cup. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are both spectacular cities and their citizenry are in full preparations and anticipation for hosting the world. Spend time in the core of these two cities and you’re going to find world-class restaurants, wonderful five star hotels, and history and architecture that rivals the finest travel spots around the globe.
In fact, the central tourist zones of Russia’s premier cities are experiencing a growing service culture. In recent years, as the Russian diaspora has spread out to work or holiday to the four corners of the Earth, they’ve adapted a taste for top quality experiences. Many have brought those ideals and standards home. Gone are the days when a trip to Russia meant a metaphoric sentence to the gulag of bland food or empty store shelves. Now visitors can anticipate a delicious culinary journey featuring a plethora of delightful local Russian tastes and all possible international ones, shopping adventures that are tailored to fully satisfying the elite and hotels that are truly world class.
At Roadtrips we are particularly excited about our event home base at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow. It’s a gem! The Ritz is long established as Moscow’s top property. It’s in the heart of the action near lots of great restaurants, a variety of shopping options and just steps away from Red Square. The hotel is famous for its food and beverage offerings featuring the flagship Novikov restaurant, Café Russe steakhouse and the local hot spot O2 Rooftop lounge with its generous terraces that bask in the summer sunshine overlooking the best of central Moscow. The Ritz is operated to top Western standards and beyond. English is everywhere and from a convenience and comfort point of view, there isn’t a better oasis to retreat to after days filled with sightseeing, adventures and tons of football. The demand for World Cup is growing steadily and everyone already wants to be centered here!
On this last trip, I was in Saint Petersburg for the first time and I have to admit that I really had no idea of the magnitude and beauty of this city of palaces. What the Tsars built is beyond the imagination for scale and opulence. Any history buff will be lost in the wonder of it for weeks. I stayed at the Four Seasons Lion Palace. Even as a fan of many other Four Seasons stays I was thoroughly impressed with this hotel’s excellent service, many sweet and smiling faces, luxurious accommodations and gourmet cuisine that inspired me to email friends back home that I’d found my most amazing meal of the year in a lunchtime ravioli that I snuck back the next day to have again for a snack!
Admittedly when you get beyond Moscow and SPB and in to the secondary cities of the country, better service standards are a lot harder to find. Roadtrips guests who will be on our Follow Team USA or other Follow Your Team experiences will have a deep appreciation for our service and hand holding in the hinterlands. Our Russian team is capable in all the World Cup cities and we have access to the best of the best no matter where fans need to be to experience matches. I know we’ll be adding significant value for guests who venture further afar and although the number of people we can service is limited, those that reserve space while it’s still available will be glad that they have.
Beyond all the stunning buildings, deep dives into tasty plates, ubiquitous shots of vodka and exhilarating football, meeting and befriending our Russian team is probably the thing that I’m looking forward to the most. When we build our program and infrastructure heading in to a major world event, Roadtrips assembles a team of locals to work hand in hand with our hosts and operations experts. I can promise you we’re all going to fall in love with our Russians! Once you get face to face with them, the politics of governments fade swiftly into the background and you find warm smiles, gracious personalities, a passion for their country and a deep desire to extend hospitality and to share their homeland with visitors. Learning what makes Russians tick and experiencing a destination like this from the perspective of someone that treats you more like a friend than a client is part of the pricelessness of what Roadtrips does. My heart is already feeling the attraction and I know our team is looking forward to sharing the love with all of you.