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Major consequences may follow suspended operations of Solvex tourist company

September 08, 2014, 12:51 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The exact amount of overdue payments to aviation carriers is to be specified yet

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Pulkovo airport

Pulkovo airport

© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Smolsky

MOSCOW, September 08. /ITAR-TASS/. Consequences from suspended operations of Solvex-Tourne, a major tourist company in St. Petersburg, may affect other companies in the market, acting head of Russia’s tourism authority, Rostourism, Oleg Safonov, said on Monday.

“Unfortunately, it is a rather big company, and consequences may be quite big,” he said.

Solvex-Tourne could suspend operations even a week earlier, he said, and Rostourism had been working with aviation carriers in order to prevent this scenario. Safonov thanked aviation carriers for having responded to the request from Rostourism as they continued serving clients of Solvex-Tourne, though their fares had not been settled.

The exact amount of overdue payments to aviation carriers is to be specified yet.

“The debt grew within the several days, where the companies served clients without having received money for the services,” the official said. The debt may be worth several million robles, he added.

Earlier on Monday, Russia’s Orenburg Airlines announced earlier it may cancel from September 8 serving Solvex-Tourne’s chartered flights, as the tourist company had informed the carrier it might suspend its activities.

Commenting on the information, the official did not rule out among those passengers could be not only clients of Solvex-Tourne, but clients of other companies. The tourism authority would require some time to estimate possible consequences, he said.

On Monday, Solvex-Tourne announced it suspended operations.

About nine thousand clients of the company remain abroad. Most of them are staying in Greece and Bulgaria. About 8,600 clients have paid for tours due within several next months, even including the Christmas period.

Three insurance companies are bearing financial responsibility of 450 million rubles (about $12 million) for the tourist operator. “Thus, a compensation for unused tours will make 150 million rubles (about $4 million),” a representative of the Russian Union of Tourism Industry said. “As not all the tours are fully paid for, tourists will be able to receive, we estimate, 70-80% of the money paid for the trips.”

The Association of Russian Tourism Operators says about 90% of Solvex-Tourne’s sales were made via about 2,000 tourism agencies and about 64 franchise companies.

Solvex-Tourne has asked the Turpomoshch (tourism assistance) Union for assistance in returning from abroad clients of the company. Head of that organization told ITAR-TASS a decision is pending. He said the Union would have a clear picture by late Monday of how many tourists would require the assistance in returning back to Russia. He supposed the number could reach 8,000.

Solvex-Tourne is a part of the Solvex Group of Companies, which is represented in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Minsk and in Bulgaria’s Sofia and Varna. The Solvex brand has been in the market for over 20 years. Solvex-Tourne is a tourism operator in international and domestic tourism, sightseeing, ski and leisure tours. Solvex-Tourne has been serving annually dozens of thousands tourists to Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Hungary, India, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Italy, Spain, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Croatia and Tunisia. The company’s revenues in 2013 made 4.55 billion rubles (about $123 million).

In summer 2014, Russia’s tourism sector witnessed a chain of bankruptcies. From mid July, 16 companies closed operations due to financial problems. Most affected tourists were clients of Neva (17 thousand) and Labirint (40 thousand people). The companies explained the situations by the sanctions introduced by the EU, currency rates’ fluctuations and banned foreign trips for law enforcers. However, experts said the tourism companies, which had been working as financial pyramids, simply wanted to escape responsibilities. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered inspections and was expecting suggestions on reforming the sector.

In 2013, Russia ranked the third among European countries, which citizens made most trips abroad: 32 million trips, the World Travel Monitor reported. Most Russian tourists visited Turkey (4.3 million), Germany (2.1 million) and China (two million). Of all the trips Russians made, 27 million were private trips, and 12.5 million trips were targeted at spending time by the sea. Sightseeing tours attracted 3.8 million tourists, and travelling the world — 1.3 million. About 51% tourists spend around €1,200 euro per person, which is comparable with tourism expenses of most Europeans.

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