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Russian Tourism: What Turkey Lost, Crimea and Greece Gained

Statistics for the May long holiday show growth in domestic tourism

 
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As Russian purses have flattened, food budgets are growing, but vacations are a special expense. The number of package tours sold over the long spring holiday in this year of crisis tops last year’s. According to the tourism industry, Russians have got used to recession.

The Russian Tour Operators Association registered growth in tours for the May holidays: demand increased by 11-12% compared to the same period last year, Executive Director of the Russian Tour Operators Association Maya Lomidze told Rossiya Segodnya.

She gave two reasons for the May tourist splash. First, there is obvious growth in domestic tourist market demand, Russia having become 10% cheaper. According to the Federal Tourism Agency, Russia topped the list of popular tourist destinations during the May holidays over Cyprus and Greece. Leading destinations are Sochi and the Crimea, resorts in the North Caucasus Republics and the Krasnodar Region. Demand for domestic trips has grown three years in a row, according to tourist operators and agencies, who expect domestic tourism to grow by 3-5 million in 2016.

Russians are gradually getting used to the financial situation. Having recovered from the shock of declining incomes and becoming used to the Russian currency fluctuating they eagerly booked May tours in Greece, Cyprus and Malta. Greece generated a real craze: the Greek Consulate in Moscow hardly managed to process Russian visas working weekends, including Easter.

The May tourist rush seems strange against the background of the general economic situation. Russia is in the midst of a consumption crisis. Vice-Prime Minister Olga Golodets talked briefly about that in late April. Drop in consumption is the biggest problem holding back the economy. According to her, the structure of consumption also changed: food came to the fore for the first time this year. “We had 51% in consumption of food products in February for the time time in years,”she said.    

It‘s impossible to say that the situation in May reflects the Russian tourist market as well. Since the summer of 2014, it decreased steadily, due to the wave of bankruptcies among tourist agencies and the devaluation of the ruble. According to the Federal Tourism Agency, the number of those traveling abroad decreased by 4% in 2014, and by another 31% in 2015. The market faced another problem this season: two of the biggest organized tourist destinations closed: Turkey and Egypt. (Independent travelers don’t count.)

In May the international tourism market began to show a positive trend. Based on results for this summer, tour operators are convinced that sales will grow by 5%, even 20% for some destinations. Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Croatia all could become the most popular destination for international Russian tourists this year.   

Sales gains differ for each destination, and due to the redistribution of the tourist flow from Turkey and Egypt (these two countries welcomed 35% of total tourists from Russia to other destinations, five million Russian tourists a year), as Lomidze explained to Rossiya Segodnya. Asian destinations haven’t become a real alternative for most Russians – it’s far and expensive, except for those living in the Urals and Siberia, who are more willing to go to Thailand, China and South Korea.


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