Foreign Tourism Operators Widen Their Local Presence
Published: September 19, 2012 (Issue # 1727)
While Russian outbound tourism, including from St. Petersburg, is showing stable growth and taking a leading position in the world, foreign tourism operators are in turn expanding their services on the local tourism market.
Last week TUI, a major European tourism operator, announced the launch of flights from St. Petersburg on both TUI branded planes and regular planes.
The company will start flights on TUI branded planes to the Egyptian resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada on Oct. 7. The operator will also offer package holidays with direct flights from St. Petersburg to Thailand, Spain, Tenerife and the United Arab Emirates.
“All our customers enjoy a European standard of operations in both the services we provide and at the holiday resorts, and we want St. Petersburg travelers to experience this quality as well,” Chris Mottershead, managing director of TUI Russia and CIS, said at a press conference held on board a TUI branded plane at the city’s Pulkovo Airport last Friday.
Mottershead said the company had modified three planes belonging to its Russian partner Kolavia in order to meet TUI’s flight service standards.
Just a week before TUI announced its new flights from St. Petersburg, another major player in the travel market — Emirates Airlines — announced the arrival in the city of its tourism branch, Emirates Holidays, which is the biggest tourism operator in the Middle East.
Emirates Holidays’ St. Petersburg office, which opened in the summer, is to offer full tourism packages to both local travel agencies and individual tourists on Emirates flights that were launched from St. Petersburg last November.
Ian McDougal, regional director of Emirates Holidays, said at a news conference in St. Petersburg that the company was ready to organize trips to numerous destinations around the world, including the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and India.
The operator offers clients a system that allows it to allocate packages to 5,000 tourism agents in 30 countries.
The system makes it possible to book tourism services all around the world through reliable companies and ensures that all travel risks will be covered in the event of problems, McDougal said.
Oleg Aframeyev, general director of Zvyozdy Puteshestvy, representing the Emirates Holidays brand in St. Petersburg, said that it is “a brand product that has its own airline that also flies from St. Petersburg.”
The development of foreign tourism players on the Russian market is a clear indicator of the growth the country is witnessing in international tourism as more Russians seek to travel and discover new destinations, analysts say.
Tatyana Gavrilova, head of the northwestern office of the Russian Tourism Industry Union, said Russia is now one of the world’s leading nations in outbound tourism.
“According to the latest survey, Russians now travel 30 percent more than the Chinese and 640 percent more than Brazilians,” Gavrilova told The St. Petersburg Times.
Europeans, on the other hand, are not showing growth in outbound tourism, although they continue to travel a lot. Due to the financial crisis in Europe, outbound tourism is in stagnation there, she said.
“Therefore it is understandable that foreign tourism companies — those that are thinking about the future — realize the necessity of developing the Russian market. St. Petersburg, as the center of Russia’s northwest, is a very attractive location for them,” Gavrilova said.
Other factors, such as Russia’s entry into the WTO and the welcoming policy of Northern Capital Gateway, the consortium that runs Pulkovo Airport, have contributed to this positive development, she added.
According to data from the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, the volume of Russian tourists abroad increased by 7 percent in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year. In total, Russians made about 6.5 million trips abroad, Interfax reported.
Turkey, traditionally the most popular destination for Russian tourists, again received the highest number of visits, welcoming 936,000 people, although numbers decreased by 17 percent on the year before.
In second place was Egypt, which saw 804,000 visits by Russians, an increase of 65 percent from last year. China received the third most number of visits by Russians in the first half of this year with about 573,000 Russian citizens going there, though this figure marked a decrease of 9 percent.
At the same time, the volume of Russian tourists significantly increased in Slovakia (by 97 percent), Tunisia (by 92 percent), Romania (by 85 percent) and Japan (by 62 percent).
Meanwhile, other countries saw a significant decrease in Russian tourists, including Sweden, which received 42 percent fewer Russian travelers than the year before, as well as Finland (41 percent fewer), Lithuania (24 percent fewer), Hungary (8 percent fewer) and Israel (7 percent fewer).