Subtropical climates, grandiose cities, spectacular mountain ranges and some of the world’s best skiing: Russia has it all. So why, according to recent polls, do only 30% of Russians prefer to travel in their own country, with Egypt and Turkey topping the surveys for Russians’ most popular holiday destinations? Expensive domestic air and train fares, poor infrastructure, and a lack of advertising for domestic trips all play a part, as well as the desire of many Russians to explore Europe’s cultural attractions. However, with a governmental drive to improve infrastructure and increase domestic travel by 150% by 2018, it is possible that Russians will be keener to embrace the virtues of the ‘staycation.’ So which sports are popular with the locals?
Sochi and the Black Sea coast
Hailed as Russia’s ‘summer capital ’, Sochi has long been an enviable holiday location for many Russians and is often seen to hold as much prestige as a foreign destination. Situated on the dazzling Black Sea coast, Sochi has undergone massive investment to improve communications and transportation infrastructure, allowing it to compete with European destinations for Russian holidaymakers. Meanwhile, further up the coast, Anapa, a major resort for Russian families with over three million visitors annually, is set to open a new $15.5 million state-of-the-art airport terminal in 2015. This expansion looks likely to encourage even more Russians to take holidays at home in the coming years.
A weekend at the dacha
Recent research has shown that Russians are following the trend of Western Europe in taking several shorter vacations per year rather than one big one. A significant part of this trend may lie in the fact that around 50% of Russia’s city dwellers own a ‘dacha’, a small countryside cottage serving as a second home in which to spend weekends away during the summer months. From April until September, and even up to mid-November through the so-called Russian ‘velvet season’, many city workers drive out to their dachas to spend weekends growing fruit and vegetables and relaxing with nature, in a bid to escape the noise and stress of the city. A unique phenomenon in Russia, the dacha is suggested to be a ‘return to paradise lost’ for many busy city dwellers.
City escapes and the ‘Golden Ring’
Oleg Safronov, acting Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism (Rosturizm), predicts that this summer many Russians will choose Moscow, St Petersburg and the Golden Ring (a group of towns north-east of Moscow where ancient Rus grew into the Russian nation) as holiday destinations. He suggests that Russians have been increasingly interested in traveling within their own country, and taking educational tours in Russia’s impressive historical cities, perhaps the result of a renewed interest in Russia’s cultural history.
Foreign destinations such as Egypt and Turkey are still popular holiday choices for many Russians, in part due to the fact that domestic flights are generally much more expensive than flights abroad. Given the country’s vast size, flying is often the only sensible mode of transport for Russians; the drive from Moscow to Sochi, for instance, is 37 hours long. However, with a further drive of state investment into infrastructure and advertising, and with disposable income on the rise, the Russian ‘staycation’ could become a far more attractive and viable option in the near future.