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Tourism beginning to thaw in Siberia's capital

Tourism in Siberia may sound like a hard sell, but it's an area that has been steadily growing in popularity among adventurous travelers over the past few years.

On October 5, international hotel chain Hilton announced that it had opened the Doubletree by Hilton Novosibirsk, the city of Novosibirsk's first internationally-branded hotel.

Given that Novosibirsk is home to some 1.5 million people and the third-largest city in Russia, it's somewhat surprising that no international chain has moved in earlier - until you see where it is.

Situated 2,800 kilometers to the east of Moscow, Novosibirsk is far closer to Beijing than it is to any Western European capital, and although it's pretty big, it's the main city of Siberia, a vast, sparsely populated territory.

That remoteness, however, could be about to end - the new Doubletree hotel is the latest signal that Novosibirsk and the wider Siberian region are opening up more to tourists.

The 188-room property also offers two restaurants and a spa, water bar, and gym, all within walking distance of the city center.

In a statement, Hilton points out the attractions of the town - "the magnificent Novosibirsk Ballet and Opera Theatre, fine shopping, vibrant bistros and more."

Hilton, however, may not be the only Western name in the town for long - Hilton's competitor InterContinental has a hotel in the pipeline, as do Accor and Swissotel.

In another sign of Novosibirsk's growing appeal to visitors, nearby Tolmachevo Airport, which inaugurated its second runway in September, says that it expects passenger traffic by the end of the year to reach 2.2 million passengers, increasing between 10 and 15 percent annually thereafter.