The travel industry in Russia is stronger than ever. In 2013 alone, 7.7 million Russians traveled to Europe on vacation. But not only are more Russians traveling abroad, they are also spending more too. By the end of 2013, Russia was said to be the 7th largest travel market in terms of expenditure. In 2012, the Spanish Tourist Board reported that Russian tourists spend 47% more than the average visitor and 54% of Russian holiday makers in France stayed in 4/5 star hotels. As the country experiences strong economic growth and it’s clear that the emerging middle classes are embracing travel, let’s examine who these holiday makers are and where they are traveling to.
It’s a Family Affair
As in any country, middle-class couples with children represent a large proportion of Russian tourists. These families tend to favor sunny beach holidays in countries like Spain, Egypt and Greece, with an estimated 900,000 Russians visiting Greece alone in 2012. These countries are also popular because they don’t require a visa. As Russian families are more likely to book their holiday through a traditional travel agent and are on the lookout for promotional deals and last minute offers, they don’t want to spend time organizing a visa for their holiday.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Young professionals see vacations as an important part of their lifestyle and are keen to try new places and experience different cultures. In Thailand, for example, Russian tourism has grown by 49% since 2008. For them, traveling to as many different places as possible is seen as almost a status symbol. They tend to be more adventurous and are more comfortable using the internet to research and even book holidays abroad. While traditional travel agents still retain a high market share, this is slowly changing. In 2008, one in three holidays was booked through a travel agent whereas this number had changed to one in five by 2012.
The ultra wealthy tend to be a very discerning group with high standards. They book their holidays through VIP travel agents and expect extras like chauffeur-driven cars, concierge services and personal shoppers. They favor further-flung destinations such as Dubai and South America and are more likely to go on cruises and health spa breaks. While this group may not be as large as the other two they have a lot of money and a lot of leisure time so are still an important group to target.
Strong economic growth and a desire to get away from a cold climate result in a Russian tourist with a hunger for travel. As visa regulations are becoming more relaxed, particularly in the Schengen area, it will be interesting to see how this develops. Low-cost airlines and online travel booking are becoming more popular and there could be a shift from package tours to more independent travel. People are also becoming more tech-savvy. Who knows where they will go next?