Source: Artur Lebedev / TASS
In Russia winter holidays last from Dec. 31 to around Jan. 14, and many people take a few days more in order to have a satisfying vacation. This year the economic crisis and the fall of the ruble has had a substantial impact on holiday trends: According to Executive Director of the Tourist Operator Association Maya Lomidze, demand for package vacations abroad fell by 25-35 percent.
Roads leading to Egypt
"There has been a great fall in demand for European vacations, for example, to the ski resorts in France (35 percent) or to Greece (38 percent),” says Lomidze. “Finland and the Czech Republic are exceptions in Europe, with only a 20-percent decrease. The demand also fell for traditionally faraway destinations such as the Maldives (10 percent) and Cuba (15 percent)."
How many Russians are traveling abroad?
In March 2014 the Levada Center carried out a survey to find out how many Russians had international passports. It turned out that only 28 percent had the necessary documentation to travel abroad.
Usually those who have international passports are businessmen (66 percent), directors and managers (49 percent) and specialists (48 percent). The document can be found in the hands of 39 percent of those aged between 25 and 40, but also students (39 percent), people with higher education (46 percent), a high consumer status (75 percent) and Muscovites (59 percent).
Only nine percent of respondents told sociologists that they travel abroad two, three or more times a year, while six percent periodically leave the borders of the former USSR for work.
76 percent of those polled have never been beyond the borders of the former USSR for work, and 60 percent have never taken a vacation outside the former Soviet Union.
Finland and Vietnam are joint-third most popular winter destinations for Russians this year, although demand for vacations in these countries has decreased by an average of 17 percent. Thailand is in second place, with demand falling by 20 percent, while the most popular destination this year, as it was a year ago, is Egypt.
"This year even 10 percent more tourists will go to Egypt than last year," says Lomidze. "And this is the only case in which there is a positive dynamic. Egypt was chosen by those who could not afford expensive vacations, but who nevertheless wanted to go abroad."
For some, however, like eye surgeon Nikolai Ovechkin, even an increase in prices will not prompt a rethink. "Not everything is measured by money - health is more important," says Ovechkin. "I need a rest after all my work. I know that Thailand will cost twice as much this year. But I prefer to save money later and spend my winter vacation recovering my strength by the sea."
It's better to stay home
Many of those who will spend New Year's abroad paid for their trips before the fall of the ruble. However, the payment for the package tour is still not the payment for the entire vacation and the need to buy foreign currency according to today's exchange rate is forcing tourists to cancel their bookings. Russian journalist and TV host Alexei Ostudin bought plane tickets back in August. He wanted to spend the winter holidays in Budapest and in Vienna.
"I wanted to go until the last day, but then there were problems at work," says Ostudin. "I was therefore very happy when I received the letter from the airline saying that the flight had been canceled and that I would be refunded. The price of foreign currency has put an end to vacations in the near future."
Prices of international tours have grown in proportion to the growth of foreign currencies: by 50 to 100 percent. According to a survey by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), the 37,077 rubles that covered the cost of a foreign vacation for one person last year will not be enough to cover even an inexpensive tour to Egypt, which is estimated to cost an average of 55-60,000 rubles. The demand for vacations to CIS countries has also fallen. Belarus is still in first place in this segment, but Ukraine has fallen from second place, explains Maya Lomidze.
"Last year Ukrainian cities such as Lvov, Odessa and Truskavets made it to the top five on the list of some tour operators' winter destinations, while on the list of others they were definitely in the top ten," remarks Lomidze. "Now no one will take an organized tour to Ukraine."
The alternative - domestic tourism
The desire for a change of scenery and travel in the current situation has motivated Russians to focus on tours in Russia. "The demand for domestic tourism has increased by 35 percent," says Lomidze. "This includes ski resorts in the Krasnodar Territory, the Altai, the Urals, Siberia, St. Petersburg, the towns of the Golden Ring and Kazan."
There is also still a demand for holiday homes in the surroundings of large cities. Before, the cost of a one-week stay in a holiday home near Moscow, for example, was equal to seven days in Egypt. But now a suburban vacation is much more attractive because the cost is calculated in rubles.
"A week in a good hotel with a New Year's dinner costs 20-25,000 rubles a person (about $500)," says Olga Volkova, an employee at a Moscow tour agency. "But expenses there, such as the entertainment, the pool, rental of sports equipment, billiards, karaoke, will cost about 5,000 rubles a week ($100).
However, the overwhelming majority of Russians are staying home for New Year's (75 percent according to a VCIOM December 2014 survey).
One out of every seven people will visit friends or family (14 percent), and only three percent of Russians will go out to a restaurant or a club.
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