METROPOL Offers a la Serb Hospitality
Interview with Anastasia Zotova, CEO at Metropol Express Travel
Info: “Metropol Express” is a member of METROPOL GROUP - an
international investment and industrial group with Russian
1. Anastasia, please outline the moves around the
Russian winter tour market over the recent years? What kind winter
recreation is demanded the most by Russian tourists?
Generally speaking, touring in Russia now migrates from
package offers to individual tourism, including athletic, event,
exotic, inquisitive etc. The same is about the winter tourism. Some
Russian tourists prefer to go to the tropical seaside to enjoy
windsurfing, kitesurfing, scuba diving or simply bathing and
tanning even in winter. These are Egypt, Thailand and various
exotic islands. At the same time a share of Russian tourists take
chance of alpine skiing and snowboarding. In Russia now the number
of downhill skiers and snowboarders amounts to 6 mln, whilst 2 mln
of them regularly go to ski abroad, and both figures are growing
year in year out.
2. Where does Russian alpine tourists go in a big
Considering outbound tourism, the traditional destinations
are France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Andorra, which host
absolute majority of our tourists. The East European direction
remains well popular – Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland,
Scandinavian countries and Turkey still attracting noobs and
ordinary skiers. In recent years, the American resorts have
promoted themselves at the Russian market much aggressively. Our
market also has discovered new European alpine countries –
Montenegro, Spain, Serbia.
Generally speaking, the areal of alpine tourism is vast enough
covering all continents, including Australia, Africa, South America
and even Oceania. Few people know that skiing resorts are available
in Morocco, Iran, India, China, Japan, South Korea and even in
Antarctica. However, for national market these countries remain
exotic in terms of alpine tourism.
3. Are there any price-oriented offers for skiing
tourism in Europe?
Among the affordable options I’d highlight Serbia with its
Kopaonik alpine skiing resort. This destination is pretty new for
us, and Metropol Express is promoting it now. Serbians excercise
eastern orthodoxy, their language, culture and national spirit are
much akin to ours. I think, it is the only country all over East
Europe celebrating not only Orthodox Christmas, but also so-called
old New Year in-parallel with us. Serbian cuisine tastes quite
familiar to Russians, and Serbian hospitality is very much alike to
that of Russia. It is also worth mentioning that Russians don’t
need visas to come to Serbia.
Until recently, Serbian Kopaonik was almost absolutely unheard of
on the Russian market, that’s why it is still not haunted by
Russian tourists. Metropol Express together with the Putnik travel
company, which is also a unit of METROPOL Group of Companies, has
been promoting this resort on the Russian market for two last
years. We organize promo tours for tour operators, participate in
Moscow ski salons, perform extensive promotion campaign on the
Internet and so forth.
Kopaonik is the biggest ski resort in Serbia. Historically, it has
been oriented on domestic market. But now, as Serbia is on the
threshold of the European Union, Kopaonik is gradually transforming
into a comfortable international tourist hub. Lately, the resort
has faced significant changes. Construction of new pistes is in
full swing, new hotels and apartments are being built well
intensively; the existing ski-lift fleet as also being renovated.
Instead of obsolete platter pulls the Austrian-made modern-type 4-
and 6-seat Doppelmayer ski-lifts are being deployed. The up-to-date
artificial snow systems, both fixed-site and mobile, by the Italian
TechnoAlpin brand are already enabled.
4. Would you highlight in brief some remarkable
technical features of the resort?
The resort is generally oriented on ordinary skiers and
beginners, and also on family vacation. Total piste length is
somewhat 55 km, the highest point is a little above 2,000 m, max
level difference is 512 m, the longest piste is 3,500 m, traffic
capability of ski-lifts is 32,000 men per hour, average temperature
in January is 8 Celsius below zero. The resort infrastructure is
constantly improving. Last year the resort added to its attractions
such things as snowpark, open-air skating-rink, and a piste for
night time skiing. Artificial Snow Systems now cover nearly 75% of
all the pistes that ensure skiing irrespective of vagaries of the
weather. Recently acquired state-of-the-art piste caterpillars
prepare pistes every night for the next day. The season at Kopaonik
lasts from mid-December till the end of March.
Affordable prices make the resort preferable for youth and
students, as well as for families with children. For instance, a
6-day adult ski pass costs about € 90, whilst the children’s is
about € 60, renting full set of equipment costs about € 55,
personal coach – about € 20 per hour. By the way, Russian-speaking
are also available. A supper full of local flavour with excellent
Serbian wine for four persons in the restaurant would cost about €
80. The slopes feature a lot of small cosy restaurants, most of
which equipped with fireplace, to stay getting a warm and rest, let
alone having a snack. Discotheques are open in the evening, the
town boasts its bowling, and music in restaurants is mostly live.
Be sure, you won’t be bored.
5. What should a noob skier keep in
A rooky skier doesn’t care of the pistes total milage. For
him it doesn’t make any difference whether 500 km or just 50 km are
ahead. Whereas strong winds at high altitudes accompanied with
temperatures far below zero would hardly make him happy. From this
point of view Kopaonik is the ideal site.
I wouldn’t advise novices to buy skis and boots right away. Better
do it later. Skiing proficiency of a beginner grows, say,
exponentially up to some certain level. So it’s difficult to
understand what particular skis and boots you really need, that’s
why it’s better to refer to professional renters rather than “to
ask pal for help”.
Also advisable that pistes be accessible on foot from your hotel
(ski in/ski out), convenient infrastructure for getting to the top
and boot drying compartament be available, which is very
6. Please suggest where is it better to put up in
At present, Metropol Express represents on the Russian
market two Kopaonik hotels owned by Metropol Group.
Hotel Club A**** is a very comfortable club hotel of 97 rooms,
including 4 suites. The hotel is located in the very heart of the
Kopaonik’s tourist zone in immediate proximity to ski-lifts. It has
private parking, ski rental, SPA, swimming pool, gym, equipped
infant nursery with skilled babysitters available.
Hotel Putnik *** features 90 rooms, including 4 suites, located in
Sun Valley – the most picturesque site all over Kopaonik, 1,650 m
high above sea level. The hotel also offers equipment rental,
massage and beauty parlours, gym, billiards and table tennis
The hotels offer halfboard accomodation. Both hotels are outfitted
with free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, phone, spacious banquet and
conference facilities suitable for all kinds of corporate
7. Would you deliver some details on features of
Putnik hotel? Unless I’m mistaken, it sits a bit aloof from the
The Putnik hotel fits better for family vacation. It is more
spacious than Club A. Children are given place to skylark in the
evening. True, it is somehow outlying from the resort’s core.
However, this distance can be measured as 5 minutes by bus or 15
minutes on foot. On the other hand, the hotel is surrounded by
fairly stunning fir wood, peace and quiet reigns. Every 30 minutes
in the morning a free ski-bus routes from the hotel right to the
center of the resort.
Two years ago, a new piste was set up close to the hotel, which
4-seat ski-lift brings tourists uphill to descend to the central
valley afterwards. Thus, starting from the last season the Putnik
tennants enjoy real ski in/ski out. It is also possible to descend
right to the hotel using the new piste.
The hotel has a very cosy fireplace lounge to have a good time
slugging in easychairs and listening to the live music while
sipping Sumadija tea – the Serbian national drink traditionally
served in the mountains. It may be regarded as local analog of
mulled wine, which is so popular at Alpine ski resorts.
8. Anastasia, what’s special about the Club A hotel
– the true pearl of Kopaonik? What are the advantages of the Club
Yes, you are right. The Hotel Club A is an ultimate gem of
this resort. It’s very homelike and nice hotel in the heart of the
resort, accessible on foot from the central ski-lifts. The hotel
has private parking area. Apropos, parking service for your car is
included. The hotel’s exquisite cuisine is sure to impress guests
with its variety and flavour. The hotel is famous for its
open-armed hospitality. It was this treatment of guests that makes
the hotel actually club-like. Along with all that, the prices
remain quite reasonable. An average price per guest staying at
standard double room, halfboard is about € 40-45. Most of guests
come back to this hotel every new winter year in year out. Some
rooms are booked out throughout the season.
9. And what about you? Where do you prefer to have
a rest in winter?
If my business affords, I prefer to spend my winter vacation
in European Alps together with my family. We are all the skiers
with proven track record. On the chance of leaving Moscow for
awhile, for a few recent years already our destination has been
Kopaonik in Serbia. Serbian hospitality, Serbian cuisine and
comfortable skiing give outstanding delight.
10. Apart from pistes, what else would you
recommend to see in Kopaonik?
Within an hour car ride there are very beautiful ancient
monasteries reputed by Serbians as genuine sanctuaries. Putnik and
Club A hotels organize special excursion programs for guests. A
number of local thermal springs are also worth visiting. Tourists
love the excursions to local wine cellars looking like, so to say,
wine villages. The Kopaonik region enjoys very favorable climatic
conditions for red viniculture.
In addition, I recommend staying for one or two days in Belgrade on
the way back home. The city really deserves it.
The most famous tourist sight of Belgrade is the ancient fortress
Kalemegdan, established by no other but ancient Romans, featuring
fairly exciting exposition of World Wars I and II military
hardware, including Soviet Т-34 and German Tiger tanks.
When in Belgrade, I advise you to put up at the Putnik Tulip
Inn.***. This hotel is much comfortable; it offers traditional
Serbian and international cuisines, abundant and delicious. In
fact, the services worth 4-star hotel are delivered for the price
of a 3-star one.
The hotel is located in New Belgrade very conveniently, next to
graceful embankment of Sava River not far from major shopping
malls. Semidetached restaurants on floating landing stages along
the embankment offer (for € 3 only) Dunja – the Serbian traditional
apple-quince vodka. The central part of the embankment is occupied
by the Belgrade biggest casino. The transfer from the hotel to the
airport will take you just 20 minutes without any traffic
Booking online and detailed info on the hotel is posted at the
Putnik official site www.putnik.com
11. What season is the best to stay in Kopaonik
80% of the resort hospitality facilities is occupied by
Serbian residents so far. That is why, after all, I wouldn’t
recommend going there on the New Year vacation. The New Year
holidays urges there, so to say, the Serbia’s population at large.
At present, the resort is capable of accomodating about 7,000
tourists. It’s better to come there after the New Year celebrations
are over. Booking online is available at the Putnik’s site
employing Metropol-Express (www.metropolgroup.ru,
phone +7 495 933 33 10). We’re in position to provide all relevant
information on the resort and its hotels, eager to organize a tour,
including transfers, and also we grant a discount on
assistance of Russian-speaking ski instructor.
12. What’s on in Kopaonik in summer?
In summer time Kopaonik location is much beautiful; the
resort offers versatile programs and routes – on foot, hacking,
bike riding, watersports... In addition to all this, which is
commonly offered by ski resorts throughout Europe, our hotel hosts
various children’s summer campuses practicing basketball,
volleyball and lawn tennis. Besides, we organize language courses
for children tutored by English teachers from the UK. Also we keep
in stock the programs combining lodgement in the mountains and on
the seaside, where we have another nice hotel called Admiral in the
town of Budva in Montenegro. But I’d rather go into details on the
point, when we are closer to the summer season.