Tourism: Russians travel to snowy destinations

51938Tourism: Russians travel to snowy destinations. 51938.jpeg

In the last five or six years the global trend towards fragmentation of vacation has been clearly seen in Russia. Average Russians now take several shorter vacations instead of one long one. The tourist industry now no longer has two main peaks (summer and early fall), but at least three.

During winter holidays increasingly more Russians prefer to travel either to warmer climates or mountain resorts. Generally, most of the New Year and winter tourists can be divided into two categories: «beachgoers» and «skiers.» Some people prefer to wait out January cold (although it was not particularly cold this year) at warm sea resorts.

Others, on the contrary, prefer mountains, extreme for dessert, and cultural programs.

The trend towards an increase of winter holidays travel abroad among Russians has become stable. The volume of the market of winter tourism industry is gradually overgrowing even summer travel. According to specialized media, in the first quarter of the year 16-18 percent of the total annual number of tourists go on trips. This is explained by traditional Christmas discounts and cheap last minute tours, as well as the fact that in recent years the procedure of travelling abroad has been significantly simplified.

Where exactly do Russians like to travel for the New Year’s? Not only to warmer climes, although beach tourism is still the most widespread type of tourism in winter. According to travel media, oddly enough, this holiday season Egypt was the most popular destination with Russian tourists.

Not that long ago travel to this country was not recommended due to revolutionary events. Apparently, the Egyptians realized that riots bring nothing but losses since the tourist industry there feeds a considerable part of the population. The Russians who recently returned from Egypt noted that there were no rebels in the resort areas, and local police enforced strict order.

The UAE and Turkey were also popular among New Year’s vacationers. Russian travelers were not particularly crazy about Southeast Asia this year. Compared to last year this holiday season the number of tourists traveling to celebrate the holidays in this area has decreased by 11 percent.

Some tour operators quite unexpectedly noted an increased interest in Bulgaria winter travel. In addition to the usual factors (e.g., flexible discount system, regular flights vs. charter ones, etc.), the fact that many Russians have purchased real estate in Bulgaria may be a factor. The number of those who travel to Bulgaria this holiday season exceeded the total number of tourists who traveled to Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Spain and Portugal took the third place as a holiday travel destination. Increasingly more Russians join the so-called ski programs. Nearly twice as many Russians than a year ago celebrated New Year in Germany. Winter tourist flow from Russia to Austria has increased by 27 percent. France and Switzerland were also popular, but ski vacations in Italy so far have seen fewer sales than neighboring Austria and Switzerland.

For many years in a row the birthplace of European Santa Claus, Finland, has been the leader of Russian holiday travels. According to the Center for Tourism Development in Finland, Russians are leading among foreign tourists visiting the country during winter holidays.

Irina Novoselova, deputy director of a major tour company working with the Northwest, told Pravda.Ru that the Baltic countries suddenly became another popular destination for winter holiday travel. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are in high demand mainly among Muscovites and residents of Saint Petersburg. Fewer tourists travelled to the Czech Republic during winter holidays (this destination lost 12 percent of the tourists this year). According to Irina Novoselova, in 2013 the percentage of vacationers who arranged their travel without the help of agents has dramatically increased. Unfortunately, Russian resorts are not popular with Russian tourists.

A trip to the residence of Grandfather Frost in Veliky Ustyug for a family of three would cost 30 to 40 thousand rubles. A trip to see Finnish Joulupukki in Lapland would cost the same family under 30,000 rubles. The most budget Santa resides in Belarus, in the Bialowieza Forest. A trip to see him would cost a family of three 15-17 thousand rubles.

In conclusion, here are the results of the online survey conducted by a regional online publication. Likely the respondents were the ones who did not travel anywhere. The question was: «How did you spend New Year’s holiday?»

It turned out that seven percent of the respondents sat at a computer, 14 percent went to see a movie or theater play at least once, only three percent skied or skated, and the largest number of the responders, 36 percent, were «couch potatoes.»

Andrey Mikhailov