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Eastern Europe loses almost half of Russian tourists this year — tour operators

July 15, 2015, 17:27 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Association of Russian Tour Operators said the devaluating ruble had caused a 50% decline in Russian outbound tourism since December 2014

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© Alexander Scherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, July 15 /TASS/. Russia’s outbound tourism has decreased by 30% this year, according to the European Commission for Tourism. Eastern Europe has lost almost half of Russian tourists since the start of 2015, the Russian Union of Travel Industry reported on Wednesday referring to Russian tour operators.

"Even the relatively low prices cannot save the situation. Experts put the average drop in sales at 50% but the figures provided by the leaders and outsiders of demand can differ in various companies," the Russian Union of Travel Industry said. The Union notes the excessive number of air flights to the Czech Republic and low demand for tours to Poland, the Baltic States, Slovakia and Slovenia. Hungary and Romania, however, remain popular destinations for the Russians.

According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), the number of Russians who visited Romania as tourists increased by 73% in the first quarter of 2015 while the tourist flows to the Czech Republic and Poland dropped by 45 and 33%, respectively. Slovakia also saw a 70% decrease in the number of Russian tourists while Slovenia lost more than half of the Russian tourist flow. According to the Russian statistics, Hungary has been least affected by falling tourist demand (just 8% for Hungary).

Oleg Safonov, the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, said in May this year that outbound tourists annually took approximately $50 billion out of the country.

The European Commission for Tourism predicts that the growth of outbound tourism from Russia to Europe will slow down to 4.5% in 2015-2019 against 89.9% in the previous five years. Simultaneously, Europe’s share in the general structure of foreign trips made by Russians may drop to 72.5% in 2019 from 77.5% in 2014.

The Association of Russian Tour Operators said the devaluating ruble had caused a 50% decline in Russian outbound tourism since December 2014.

Despite grim forecasts for outbound tourism, Greece remains a popular destination with the Russians along with Hungary and Romania.

The unstable economic situation in Greece has not made it less attractive for Russian tourists. The number of air tickets booked for this destination remained almost unchanged last week.

"According to the sales statistics, the demand for Greece did not fall last week: the share of air ticket purchases remained the same. Our customers continue booking tickets for Greece not only for August but also for September," Dmitry Kharkov, the director general, told TASS on July 13.

The Aviasales online service has confirmed the statistics - there was no change in demand for Greece last week.

"We are receiving many questions from our users about what they should expect from their vacation to Greece under the current circumstances. But the sales to this destination continue going smoothly. There has been no decline in demand," Aviasales’ representative Janis Dzenis told TASS. According to him, Greece remains among the top ten foreign countries, which are popular with Russian tourists.

According to and Aviasales, Thessaloniki is the most popular resort with the Russians. According to Dzenis, Athens is also in great demand. The Greek islands are less popular this season because of high prices. The price of air tickets to Rodos, Crete and other Greek islands has increased by more than 30%. However, Greece still has a chance to remain one of the most popular tourist destinations for the Russians in the 2015 summer season if air carriers continue reducing prices of air tickets to the Greek islands, Dzenis said.

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