OVER 12M RUSSIAN TOURISTS HEAD ABROAD IN 2008

Some 12,164,000 Russian tourists have travelled or booked to head abroad this year, with China (2.58m), Turkey (1.91m), Egypt (1.73m) and Finland (1.23m) the most visited destinations, according to the country’s largest insurance body Rosgosstrakh, which insures over 80% of all properties in Russia.

Compiled by the Rosgosstrakh Centre of Strategic Studies, using Ministry of Tourism data, its own client information and various surveys, it released the figures last week providing a breakdown of the most popular overseas destinations visited by Russians in order of numbers visited and its forecast for growth over the next two years.

Singapore, which only received 42,000 Russian holiday and business visitors in 2008, is predicted to see the highest rise in tourists next year (33.7%), followed by Mexico (30.9%), Cuba (26%), Croatia (25.2%) and Vietnam (24.9%).

Although China is predicted to receive the most Russian tourists next year, Egypt is expecting a 23.4% rise to 2,134,000 visitors in 2009 – knocking Turkey from second position.

Other popular destinations such as Spain, Greece, Thailand, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and the UAE are predicted to record a rise in tourist numbers of at least 10% in 2009.

As Russian tourists make their presence felt across the world, several nations have begun to relax or remove visa restrictions in an effort to make their countries more appealing to its investors.

The Bulgarian government, set to receive 254,000 Russian tourists in 2008, struck a deal with the Russian Tourism Agency last month which automatically provides Russian’s who buy property in the country with a three-year Bulgarian visa – allowing them to stay in the country for 180-days per year.

“I believe that around 90% of the market at the moment we are selling to are Russian and this really will help our industry,” said Gabby Ikonomova, from REMAX Dreamhouse Realty in Varna. “It is not a normal situation when a person makes a substantial investment into a country and is not allowed to spend time there. I also think that this should be rolled out here for other buyer markets to ensure the property sector’s sustainability,” she added.

The number of Russians heading overseas in 2009 is expected to rise 13.8% to 13,840,000 and by 13% to 15,646,000 in 2010.
Source: OPP

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