'Quickie' fix for Russian tourism troubles
Published 09/06/2011 | 05:00
It was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and is renowned as the setting for the Winter Palace and one of the largest art museums in the world.
But it seems the cachet of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site is no longer drawing enough tourists to St Petersburg.
In a desperate attempt to attract more visitors, the former Russian capital has now decided to offer "quickie marriages", setting itself up as a rival to Las Vegas -- founded by a railroad company in 1910 -- with its little white wedding chapels and Elvis Presley-impersonating pastors.
Soviet-style bureaucracy has been rolled back and couples visiting St Petersburg will be allowed to get a marriage licence in 72 hours.
In the midst of its sumptuous imperial palaces, new registry offices are to be built and more registrars will be trained to cope with an expected influx of couples.
Russians will still have to wait as the new quick licences will only be available to foreigners.
The plan is the focal point of an effort to attract an additional three million visitors each year to a city that was the Tsarist capital for two centuries.
While critics believe the plan is vulgar, officials claim they would offer a more upmarket service.
There will be no drive-through weddings and couples will be able to marry in centuries-old churches.
Sergei Korneyev, of the Russia Travel Industry Union, insisted it would "not be a copy (of Vegas) but something different". (©Daily Telegraph, London)