Mikhail Ignatiev: “I’d like to create a community of ambitious, talented entrepreneurs”

Interview with Think Travel Tech’s publisher, Mikhail Ignatiev

Think Travel Tech is an information project that talks about new technologies in tourism. The site is relatively new – it was launched in the UK just two months ago. During that time, the editors have received lots of questions about who is behind this project, what its purpose is and why in London. 

We decided to put these questions to Think Travel Tech’s publisher, Mikhail Ignatiev. 

– Mikhail, we know that the tourism industry is just about the worst affected this year in terms of coronavirus. Projects are closing down, companies going bankrupt, and suddenly, against such a desperate backdrop, a new information website has appeared. Why now? 

– In my view, the site has appeared at just the right time. It’s important to support the tourism industry, show that not everything is negative in this respect. That, despite the difficulties, there’s no shortage of interesting ideas and promising projects around. In many ways, it’s worth mentioning, the difficulties associated with Covid have led to their appearance. For example, to improve passenger safety at airports, new technologies are being introduced almost every day around the world. Rapid check-in, contactless baggage checks – things that we only dreamed of yesterday are actually happening today. This process is interesting to watch.

 – And tell others about? 

– Yes. The idea was that we would collect interesting examples from all over the world on the website. What may seem strange and unusual to us today may tomorrow fully enter our lives. Think Travel Tech is a site where you can see this whole mosaic of ideas and put some of them into service. Today these are ideas – tomorrow, our reality.

– What’s the target audience for the project? 

– First of all, professionals working in the field of tourism. I myself have worked in the travel industry for over 30 years and I understand that if you’re not racing forward and making progress, then soon you’ll get left behind. I’d like to create a community of ambitious, talented entrepreneurs, inventors and managers around our project – in short, all those people who shape the future of our industry.

 – You say you’ve been working in the industry for 30 years. Can you tell us more about your experience – what have you done?

 – In 1989, I worked in a tourist cooperative in Moscow – we received groups of foreigners from all over the world. During one of my trips, I met my future wife – she was from England, working at the British Embassy in Moscow. In 1993, I moved to London with her. There, I set up a company that both received tourists from Russia to Britain, and sent British tourists to Russia. It was called the Inntel-Moscow Travel Company. Later, we launched other projects: First Russian Radio, the Russian Travel Centre (later renamed the Russian National Tourist Office), Business Services International UK, Eastern Seasons Week and more. 

Many of these start-ups were successful, some were sold and some remained under my management. One of the projects that’s working successfully is the Russian National Tourist Office, which in 1997 I led as director. The company promotes Russia in the UK as a tourist destination and organises trips for foreigners (primarily British) to Russia and other post-Soviet countries – Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan. Due to the fact that there were more projects, many of them having different owners, we decided to create the BSI Global Group association of companies, which included my projects and a number of other businesses related to tourism. BSI Global Group members primarily work within the association and provide comprehensive support to each other. I am the ideological co-founder and adviser to this group. 

Since 2006, I have worked as a consultant to VFS Global, helping them, among other things, open visa centres in London and Edinburgh. Since 1996, I have also been the representative of Rostourism in the UK. The organisation changed its name several times. At first, it was the Ministry of Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism. Then the Tourism Committee of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and then the Federal Agency for Tourism. But its essence, in general, remained the same. I represented the interests of the Russian travel industry in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The role didn’t pay a salary, I didn’t earn any money from it, but it was interesting to promote Russia abroad, meet new people and help solve their problems. I stayed in this position until 2017. 

Recently, I have been advising international companies, helping travel and service companies enter new markets, and also developing a private club and concierge service called BSI Lifestyle, which works with wealthy clients in Monaco. I advise businesses. I am interested in investments, including promising travel projects. 

– The Think Travel Tech website launched in London. Why? 

– I think London is a good place to understand global trends. Although I read with interest on our website both news from Russia and stories about Russian start-ups. 

– Was the idea to help these start-ups somehow? 

– It was, and still is. But it’s too early to talk about this in detail. The idea is just being formed. So stay tuned for more news. 

– Do you travel a lot yourself? 

– Yes, that’s my passion. I’ve been to more than 50 countries. It’s difficult during lockdown – I really miss having new trips and experiences. At the same time, I’m glad that with the borders closed, domestic tourism has begun to develop more. People are finally able to take a fresh look at the countries where they live, visit places that they wouldn’t otherwise have got to.

 – What would you like to change in the travel industry? 

– I’d like everything to be simpler, faster, more technological. Not wasting lots of time at the airport. Not having to deal with unnecessary paperwork. At the same time, of course, I support responsible tourism with all my heart. I hope that more and more projects will appear in this area, and that we will be able to travel, not only without causing harm to nature and the local community, but also making conditions better for them.



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