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MOSCOW, January 14. /TASS/. The ruble’s slump and international tensions have caused an unmistakable impact on Russian holiday-makers’ travel preferences. Far fewer vacationers these days try to get away from the winter chill to enjoy the sun and the warmth of exotic southern seaside resorts, while enthusiasts of winter sports, such as Alpine skiing, prefer not Austrian Alps, but post-Olympic Sochi. However, the unfavorable economic environment is still a major brake on the domestic travel industry.
The soaring dollar and euro caused many Russians to drop the original intention to celebrate the New Year outside the country. According to the Association of Russia’s Tour Operators, the outbound tourism in 2014 fell by half (40-50%). As far as New Year tours are concerned, their number has been down by 30-36% in contrast to the end of 2013. As a result, the average family has under-spent 200,000-220,000 rubles on winter holidays, the managing director of Esper Group, Darya Yadernaya, told the daily Vedomosti.
The countries that just recently were making good money on guests from Russia, these days have nothing but losses to count. The number of visitors to Finland during the eleven-day-long New Year vacation shrank by half to 165,000 from 323,000 in the same period in 2013.
Not only European tours, but also winter-time seaside holidays that Russians love so much have been affected, too. The flow of tourists to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts has been down by 50%. Russians, who before accounted for half of foreign tourists in Egypt, have cancelled their booked trips.
No less than 40,000 Russian vacationers have cancelled hotel reservations in India’s resort state of Goa.
Nearly all remote destinations, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, have turned out too expensive for Russian tourists, says the executive director of Russia’s Association of Tour Operators (ATOR), Maya Lomidze.
Domestic tourism is the sole beneficiary. The demand for Russian resorts has surged. According to the portal Travel.ru, the number of domestic trips about Russia on New Year’s Eve has gone up 2.5 times against the level of a year ago. The aggregate sum of on-line payments for Russian Alpine skiing resorts during the January holidays went up by 247%, and for accommodation at hotels and sanatoriums, — by 1.5 times.
During the holiday season, the Black Sea resort of Sochi welcomed more than 200,000 guests. According to Travel.ru, Sochi is in the top three most popular places for spending a winter vacation.
According to analysts, reorientation towards the domestic tourism stems not just from economic reasons, but also from the surge of patriotism against the backdrop of western sanctions, as well as security reasons, which earlier were a major argument for choosing a foreign vacation.
The domestic tourist boom, including that in Sochi, Crimea, the North Caucasus resorts and Russia’s Golden Ring, is to achieve a fundamentally new level soon, in particular, because of the cooling in Russia’s relations with the West, the authorities have said more than once. The government-run travel agency Rosturizm, ATOR and the Russian Tourist Industry Union have drafted a whole range of proposals for measures to support internal tourism. For instance, there were such ideas as subsidies compensating for the transportation costs of tour operators and individual travellers. The possibility of cancelling the VAT for tourist companies and some other measures were contemplated, too.
However, the deteriorating situation in the economy has forced the state to cut spending on programs that had been considered priority ones just recently. According to a government resolution the financing of the federal targeted program Development of Internal and Inbound Tourism in 2011-2018, launched with the aim to propel the attractiveness of holidays in Russia to a fundamentally new level, has been slashed to 139.5 billion rubles from 338.9 billion.
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