MOSCOW, September 9 (Itar-Tass) —— The number of Russian tourists complaining about ruined vacations to the Federal Tourism Agency doubled to 3,500 this year, head of the agency’s legal department Izo Arakhamia said.
“The Federal Tourism Agency received plenty of complaints from tourists this year,” she said. “More than 3,500 tourists said their vacations were thwarted or ruined. About 80% of the complaints were about inferior services.”
“Most of such tourists said that they paid for a particular hotel to a tour operator in Moscow but were accommodated at an inferior hotel. Some also said they were food poisoned. Some tourists had to leave their hotel in the morning for boarding a plane while they were told earlier that the departure was planned for the evening,” she said.
“No more than 2,000 complaints were filed last year,” Arakhamia said.
In the opinion of experts, the number of tourist complaints increased because of the political instability in Egypt. “The armed clashes in Egypt created problems for tourists. Tour operators refused to pay refunds,” she said.
As for the three tour companies, which ceased to exist this year (Luzhniki Travel, Skytur and Alfa Voyage), she said the tourists would get refunds. “Luzhniki Travel started paying refunds to tourists yesterdays. The paid refunds total 178,000 rubles. Proceeding from the number of tourists, the refunds will exceed 8 million rubles in the end,” she said.
Skytur promised to start paying refunds in the near future. “Forty-two people have lodged complaints concerning that company, and the damage amounts to four million rubles,” she said.
Alfa Voyage, which damaged about 100 tourists, certified the prospective payment of 60 million rubles with documents, Arakhamia said. The payment of the refunds has not begun, so the Federal Tourism Agency will send a new notification to the tour operator soon.
In all, insurance payments reached 14.53 million rubles in the first eight months of this year. “The sum will grow by 10-15 million, because payments are due from Alfa Voyage, Luzhniki Travel and Skytur,” the official said.
The total number of Russians who made foreign trips in that period exceeded 18 million, which was 15% more than in January-June 2010, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said earlier.
About 70% of all trips were made to countries outside the former Soviet Union territory, and the rest were made to CIS member states. Over 50% of all trips were made with personal invitations, and slightly more than 30% of all travelers were tourists.
According to the Association, the most popular destinations in the first half of 2011 were Turkey (visited by more than one million Russians) and China (over 600,000 tourists). Egypt ranked third with about 500,000 Russian tourists.
The altered situation in Egypt influenced preferences of Russian tourists, the Association said. “Due to the travel alert for Egypt, many tourism destinations showed unprecedented dynamics. For instance, the number of tourists visiting Cuba doubled to 46,000, while the number of tourists that preferred vacations in the Dominican Republic grew by almost 60% to 52,000,” the Association said.
Meanwhile, the number of foreign tourists in Russia grew in the first half of the year, the Association said. Some 11.5 million citizens of 212 states visited Russia in that period, which was 14% more than last year. Only 7% of the foreign visitors were tourists, the Association said.
It also said that more than 6 million Russian tourists spent vacations abroad in the first half of this year.
Nearly three million foreigners visited Moscow in the first half of this year, according to head of the city tourism and hospitality committee Sergei Shpilko.
He said the rate increased by 11.5% since last year. “The occupancy of Moscow hotels grew by 7-8% this summer,” the official added.
“The city tourism and hospitality committee and tour operators are forming a new tourist product and developing event tourism in Moscow,” he said. “The rivalry on the world market of event tourism has tightened recently. Moscow may compete with many cities and countries popular with tourists.”
Russia plays host to numerous events, such as the MAKS aerospace show, the Spasskaya Bashnya festival and the festival of military history clubs. “These events should be adapted for foreign tourists,” Shpilko said.
“Moscow is gaining its score as a host of large sport events. We expect the tourist flow to grow to 6-7 million by the 2018 World Cup,” he said.
Shpilko forecasted a growth of foreign tourists in Moscow to 4.3 million this year.