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MOSCOW, November 5. /TASS/. Weakening of the Russian ruble versus major foreign currencies and the turbulent situation in the international political arena has brought about shrinkage of the outbound tourist flow to European countries this year, Oleg Safonov, the acting director of the federal agency for tourism (Rostourism) said on Wednesday at a news conference at TASS headquarters.
“Traveling to European countries has seen the biggest drop ever in the number of customers while the mass destination countries like Turkey, Thailand and Egypt has seen the smallest reduction of (Russian) clientele,” he said.
Along with it, Safonov said he could not cite any exact data yet, as Rostourism so far had only the information from tour operators.
“The situation stems from a range of factors,” he said. “Number one, Interior and Armed Forces servicemen can’t go abroad now and, number two, the ruble is sliding versus the US dollar and the euro and this sends the prices of tours up.”
“This year has been a highly complicated one, as twenty tour companies stopped operations,” Safonov said. “The organization for helping Russian tourists in distress, Turpomoshch, and our federal agency helped return home about 38,000 tourists (from aboard) and prevented the use of tour vouchers by about 100,000 people.
The ruble’s slump and the Ebola virus disease cannot but cause adverse effects on Russia’s outgoing tourism, but those making holiday plans these days should not be afraid of anything like last summer’s string of bankruptcies during the year-end and New Year holidays, Oleg Safonov said.
“We believe that there will be nothing like last summer’s problems and nobody should feel any fears about using the services of tour operators. But, in planning foreign holidays one should bear in mind the Ebola fever and other diseases,” Safonov said.
He warned that there still existed a considerable risk of contracting the virus while travelling through major transport hubs. For this reason Safonov advised Russians to spend the holidays inside the country, where the risks of falling ill were low by virtue of tight sanitary and epidemiological control.
“There is no exaggeration about that, and nobody wishes to scare someone. Our task is to inform the market and tourists about the risks that foreign trips involve,” he said.
Safonov advised tour operators to diversify their businesses and expand domestic itineraries, as well as to work on charter routes inside the country. Safonov predicts a 25-30% slump in outbound tourism this year.