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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Russian tourists are returning to Europe

A period of sharp decline in demand for overseas tours among Russians, apparently, already behind. A number of European countries, including the West, are reporting a substantial increase in the number of tourists from Russia. However, this does not apply to Turkey, for obvious reasons, the showing of record, but the concerns of several other countries, with which Russia frankly a bad relationship. For Example, Georgia.

The strengthening of the ruble and the intensive efforts of some countries to attract Russian tourists has led to the revival of demand for overseas holiday. A special interest of Russians on may holidays used Greece – volume of applications for visas was such that the authorities were able to handle them only with great effort. A significant surge in Russian demand note also the States of Transcaucasia, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus and several other countries.

Turn to the Turkish “pie”

“The introduction of biometrics and slows down the process of applying for a visa, but not only for Greece but for any country of the Schengen area. This led to the fact that we have slowed down the issuance of visas, but not for long”

The withdrawal from the Russian tourism market in Turkey and Egypt formed a large amount of unfulfilled demand, which immediately turned a serious struggle. The potential capacity of vacant Turkish-Egyptian segment in the hundreds of thousands of people. According to the Ministry of tourism of Egypt, in the first quarter of this year the number of tourists to this country fell by almost half (to 1.2 million people compared to 2.2 million in January – March 2015), the majority of tourists falls on the Russians. Turkey from January to March was visited by a total 66,1 thousand of Russian citizens, or by 56.2% less than in the first quarter of 2015. And according to the authorities of Antalya, popular among Russians directions – in the first four months of this year the number of Russian tourists fell by 90% compared to the same period last year.

While the decline in Turkey have in the summer, and the bulk of those who vacationed in Antalya and Marmaris, is calculated to make Russian resorts. But the past may day celebrations have demonstrated that they have serious competition with a number of overseas destinations. According to the Association of tour operators of Russia (ATOR), held two weeks before the start of the holidays, the growth in demand on the Russian direction amounted to 20%, and foreign – 10-15%. The recovery of demand abroad, led to a notable strengthening of the ruble that took place from February to April.

The main foreign contender to replace the outgoing Turkey and Egypt expects to become Greece. In favor of this direction there are several factors: low prices in comparison with other countries of the Euro zone, short flight, large volume of proposals at the favorite Russians “all inclusive”, the cultural affinity. The last aspect, the Greeks pay special attention to the 2016 is the year of cultural exchange between Greece and Russia. In February, the Greek Ambassador to Russia Danai-Magdalene Koumanakou claimed that this year Greece is ready to accept more than 2 million Russian tourists, which is about 70% more than in 2014, when that country was visited by 1.2 million Russians.

The validity of these expectations was confirmed last may holidays – a number of Russian travel agencies have noted growing demand for Greece to 40% in comparison with last year. The interest in this country was due not only to favorable price offers (cost of a week tour with flights from Moscow began about 20 thousand rubles, or more than 300 EUR), but also the fact that many wanted to meet in Greece, the Orthodox Easter, which this year fell on may 1.

However, in mid-April it appeared that the Greek Embassy is unable to cope with the flood of applications for visas. In light of recent statements about plans to increase the number of tourists the situation was scandalous, especially that the Greeks intended to increase the number of its visa application centres in Russia to 27. However, the speed of processing visa applications prevented the need to provide fingerprint data, imposed by the EU in September last year.

“The introduction of biometrics and slows down the process of applying for a visa, but not only for Greece but for any country of the Schengen area. This led to the fact that we have slowed down the issuance of visas, but not for long,” – said shortly before the may holidays, GNTO Secretary General Dimitris Trifonopoulos, noting that while Russian tour operators have not requested any compensation for those tourists who are unable to travel due to visa issues. According to the Russian Union of travel industry, a massive collapse in the Greek direction has been avoided, to fly to Greece are unable only 20 tourists.

Current estimates of growth for Greece in 2016 in comparison with forecasts from two months ago is more modest. For example, the head of the Federal tourism Agency Oleg Safonov, commenting on the delays in the issuance of visas, said about the confidence that the Russian tourists in Greece will increase compared to the previous year by 20%. However, it is quite a compelling figure, if you remember that last year, the number fell by 63%.

High hopes for Russian tourists, lays in the beginning of the summer season, another Orthodox country in the European Union – Cyprus. In March there was observed a growth in Russian tourist arrivals by 63.4%, to about 13 thousand people) in comparison to the same month of 2015. “We expect that 2016 will be a record,” said a few days ago during the conference “Russia and Cyprus: lessons from the crisis and prospects of cooperation” of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia Georgios Kasoulides. A survey of the participants of the tourist market, ATOR held a month ago showed that 16% of agencies during the may holidays best selling Cyprus, in second place (15%) turned out to be Krasnodar Krai, on the third (13%) – Greece.

About a certain recovery of the Russian demand for holidays declare and in other countries of the European Union. “According to Air France and our tourist companies, now the decline has stopped, and the number of tourists from Russia is growing again,” said a few days ago in an interview to “Interfax” the Ambassador of France in Russia Jean-Maurice Ripert. The French are counting on a large number of guests from Russia in the days of the European championship on football which starts on June 10 and place a bet on curious tourists – this year has been declared the Franco-Russian bilateral year of cultural tourism.

Competitors in the second tier

Today Russian tourists are left without Turkey and Egypt, ready to compete and those countries which several years ago was not included in the list of the most popular among Russians directions, primarily CIS neighbors. In particular, it is ambitious in relation to the Russian travel market are set up, the States of Transcaucasia, where tourism is now experiencing a boom. According to the interior Ministry of Georgia, during the first four months of this year the country was visited by 219 thousand Russians, or 20% more than in the same period last year, and in April and even set a record for that month over the past ten years – 70 thousand tourists from Russia.

According to the portal travel booking Momondo, Tbilisi this year took the sixth place in the list of foreign cities where the Russians went on holidays in may (the growth of demand was 71%), rounded out the top ten Yerevan (+38%). This TOP-10 left Istanbul and Antalya, from year to year which was in great demand on the first of may, a significant decline in interest from the Russians has also demonstrated Rome, Prague and Barcelona. On the contrary, the increase in Russian tourist arrivals is noted in areas such as Minsk and Baku. The capital of Belarus was the leader in bookings for holidays in may according to analysts of the service “Yandex.Cash, and the demand for tickets in Baku, according to the information portal “tutu.<url>” in comparison with last year has doubled.

Another popular tour destination for Russians promises to be Serbia. The growth of interest in this country was fixed after the holidays: in January, the number of nights spent by Russian tourists in Serbia, grew by 12%, and the Russians were in third place after the guests from the neighboring Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the Ambassador of Serbia in Russia Slavenka Terzić, made in February, this year it is realistic to expect about 200-300 thousand Russian tourists.

The interest of Russians to the countries of the Caucasus and the Balkans is largely determined by relatively favorable exchange rate of local currencies even in the markedly weakened ruble. For example, over the last two years the Georgian lari against the dollar devalued by more than 25%, the Serbian Dinar by approximately 30 percent, and Azerbaijani manat is almost half. In addition, for travel to these countries you do not want to take us dollars or Euro to Russian rubles can be directly exchanged for local money in many exchange offices (especially in the Caucasus).

A significant impetus for the development of outbound tourism become and visa relaxation. Only for the first quarter of this year thanks to the possibilities of visa-free entry to China Russian tourist flow to this country has increased by 40% to more than 41 thousands of trips, and in two border regions – the Primorye and TRANS-Baikal territories, the increase was respectively 79 and 62 percent in comparison with January – March last year.

A bid for visa-free entry also makes the Israel, who intend this year to attract up to half a million Russian tourists (a relatively successful 2014, the flow amounted to 415 thousand people). This was stated by the Minister of tourism of Israel Yariv Levin during his visit to Moscow in late March. Then he noted that the number of Russian tour operators this year a great sale of vouchers, and promised to continue to compensate the companies of the spending now for every Russian tourist on the resort of Eilat, the Ministry of tourism of Israel pays 45 euros).

In the list of countries determined to fight for the Russian “legacy” of Turkey and Egypt, are completely unexpected helpers. For example, the “historic chance” to gain a foothold in the Russian market not so long ago said tour operators of Albania, which in recent years rapidly increasing tourist flow due to low domestic prices and exotic image. However, to rely on a large number of Russian guests this country is not necessary because of the lack of direct flights and specific reputation of Albania in Russia in connection with events in Kosovo.

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