Founded as a fort town 150 years ago to protect Russia from a sea attack, Tuapse is perched on the coast of the Black Sea and at the mouth of two rivers – its name is translated as 'two waters'.
The twosome moniker is appropriate as Tuapse (part of a surrounding district, Tuapsinsky), is pursuing a two-way path to development, based on the tourism industry and industrial logistics. The pairing is sometimes an incompatible one, as clashes over new projects have shown, but the head of the district administration, Vladimir Lybanev, is convinced the duo can be reconciled.
The area became well known in Soviet times for an elite leadership camp for children called Orlenok, which is still active today. Set up in 1960 on 4.5km of coastline, Orlenok is listed as the world’s largest children’s camp hosting 25,000 schoolkids (aged 10-16) a year and having produced roughly a million graduates in its history.
Employing 1800 permanent staff, and more in the summer, as well as providing solid business for suppliers and service companies, Orlenok is a significant player for the Tuapse economy but its prestige, which brings celebrities and top politicians as visitors, is useful in boosting the profile of the region within Russia.
What these high-profile visitors, and Russia’s future leaders who may stay at the camp as grade schoolers, can see while looking out at the vistas is the region’s stunning one-two punch of mountains brushing up against beaches.
While children flock to the area for games, athletics and schooling, adults have been visiting for decades for recuperative spa stays, and enjoying rest and relaxation on Russia’s only temperate coast. The country may be vast, but its 350km stretch on the Black Sea is the only access Russians have to warm waters, so they may as well make the most of it.
Wealthy Russians have preferred, nonetheless, to snub domestic resorts in favour of international travel destinations such as Spain and Turkey, although lately it is becoming more fashionable to holiday in the homeland. At the same time, with income levels rising and a middle class developing, there is increased scope to offer mid-range family vacation options at Russian resorts, such as package holidays and three- and four-star hotels.
Mr Lybanev believes Tuapse can corner this market, especially as costs of construction, labour and real estate are cheaper than in more saturated neighbouring towns such as Sochi.
To prevent the tourist traffic from stopping at the end of summer, though, it is essential to make use of the mountains – the Caucasus range surrounds Tuapse. “Like Cannes and Monaco, our coastline is extremely crowded and condensed. So the next step is to go into the mountains where we will have a clean, eco-tourism focus,” says Mr Lybanev. “The climate is very different on the coast compared with the mountains. In the mountains, the average yearly temperature is 13 degrees Celsius, on a par with northern Italy.”
Mr Lybanev sees Tuapse’s position as “an accessible tourism resort with a subtropical climate and with a well-developed transport and tourist infrastructure”.
Located roughly equidistant from the regional centre Krasnodar, the international airport and Sochi – the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics – Tuapse is in a prime position to capture spillover benefits from the influx of infrastructure investment, federal money and international visitors the games will bring.
Tuapse is also a top transit point for Russia: it is home to one of the most important non-freezing ports in Russia and is a crucial transportation hub for southern Russia. Tuapse Commercial Sea Port has a cargo throughput of 18.5 million tons per year, but that is expected to rise to 25 million by 2015. The deep-water port specialises in the transshipment of oil cargo, coal, ore, ferrous and nonferrous metals, as well as sugar, grain and other foodstuffs.
Cargo traffic comes from the central and the southern regions of Russia, the Urals and the southern part of Western Siberia. Exports and imports are also transported to and from the Mediterranean, eastern and northern Europe, Middle East, India, and North America. Its technical specifications are regarded as among the highest in the industry in Russia.
“We are expecting to see increases in the export of crude oil and crude oil products because Rosneft [which has a refinery nearby] is restructuring and increasing capacity and also the bulk terminal of [fertiliser producer] EuroChem will be starting. We also expect an increase in cargo shipments of grain, sugar and steel,” says Vladimir Gerasimenko, the port's managing director.
Key industrial planks for Tuapse are the timber, oil and food industries, the latter accounting for more than a quarter of total industrial production. The agribusiness sector, once quite well developed in Soviet times, has withered, but efforts are underway to revive it (nuts, fruits, berries and mushrooms will be a focus) and reforestation strategies are being explored so that forestry products can be produced.
There is considerable scope for more industrial development in the district, but it must happen in such a way as to not kill Tuapse’s golden goose, the tourism industry. It is a difficult balance, the delicacy of which Mr Lybanev is keenly aware.
“Tuapse is a hard worker and that makes it good for industry. We are fortunate that our economy is well diversified with many types of business. But we have to keep it all in balance, to keep the businesses thriving while also providing residents and visitors with a clean, healthy, safe environment,” he says. “It requires constant negotiation and we’re always working on it.”