Across Europe and North America, people have wrapped up their Christmas holiday week that carries into the New Year. In Russia, the Russian holiday travel and vacation time is just starting. In Russia, people celebrate well into January. This blog take readers through a bit of history on the Russian winter holiday dynamics and the resulting Russian holiday travel trends, supported by research from Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine.
Russian Holiday Schedules
First, let’s take a look at a little history. Up until just over a century ago, Russians decorated evergreen trees, exchanged gifts, attended church services, and sang carols much like the rest of Europe and the west — to celebrate Christmas. Yes, Russian Christmas took place later than in the west because of the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, but Christmas celebrations in Russia on January 7th generally were very similar to those in Vienna, London, or New York on December 25th.
The Soviet Union has come and gone, but many of its traditions remain. One such remnant is moving the celebrations and traditions associated with Christmas to New Year’s Eve. Most of the symbols remained the same — evergreen trees, singing, exchanging gifts, meals with family and friends — but the festivities became associated with saying farewell to the old year and welcoming the new.
In today’s Russia, most sales promotions at this time of year are still focused on the New Year holiday, and brightly decorated stores offer tantalizing discounts and promotions much in the same way a company in New York or Paris would. As a result, the end of the year in Russia takes on even greater economic significance than in other countries.
Russian Holiday Travel Trends
What’s most important for the travel industry, however, is what follows New Year’s Eve. Russians start the new year right — with the longest batch of annual public holidays. In 2018, for example, Russians will begin the new year with 8 days off from work. Not a bad deal!
Naturally, Russians across the country use this time in different ways. Some opt for the classic “stay-cation” and relax at home. Many people, however, pack their bags and hit the road.
A recent survey by Yandex gives some valuable insight into Russians’ plans for the New Year. First off, more than 40% of respondents said that they are planning to travel during the New Year holidays. Just this one figure already shows that this is one of the most significant periods for the travel industry, following right on the heels of the top travel season in, for example, the US, where time off from work ends after New Year’s Day.
Here are some more important facts and figures from this recent Yandex survey:
- Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and anyone involved in hospitality will be interested to know that 54% will spend 4-7 nights at their chosen destination. Another 30% plan to spend 8 nights or more at their destination!
- 72% will travel within Russia. We can posit several reasons here. First, this holiday is an ideal time to visit family in other cities. Second, it’s worth remembering that Russians need a visa to travel to the European Union and many other countries, and the costs and paperwork involved can dampen some potential travelers’ interest.
- 42% will travel to their destination by plane. The second most popular mode of transport is the train. Though traveling by train does entail sacrificing some of the time they could spend at their destination, train tickets, especially for those travelling to different Russian regions, are often a cheaper alternative to flying.
- 54% will be travelling with their significant other, and 30% with their children.
- 20% plan their trip with the help of a travel agency. The survey made clear that most respondents were ready to plan trips around Russia on their own, but eagerly consulted travel agencies when travelling abroad.
- 34% of travelers will spend between 15-30K RUB ($250-$500 USD) on their trip. 32% spend more than 30K RUB ($500 USD).
The survey showed that many Russians are last minute travelers, as 30% of respondents admitted that they won’t get around to booking their hotel until December, and 29% said the same about their plane tickets. Russians are packing their bags and making plans for the New Year holidays — did they see your ads this holiday season?