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City news, 03.11.2008 18:56

Experts Say City Tourists Unfazed By Credit Crisis

"Unlike Moscow, where dozens of tour operators have recently found themselves on the verge of going bankrupt, the local travel industry is expected to withstand the blow," said Sergei Korneyev, head of the North-Western branch of the Russian Toursim Industry Union (RST). "Most of the St. Petersburg agencies depend on two airlines, with one of them, GTK Rossija being a state enterprise, and the second one, Aeroflot, a strong veteran player."

During RST's monthly meeting in October, St. Petersburg travel agencies reported good sales for November and December tours, including New Year's and Christmas packages. But the agencies also point out that there is a greater demand for cheaper accommodation and less-expensive packages than before.

"The circle of people who spend their holidays abroad has not changed drastically but the crisis has visibly affected their spending," Korneyev said. "If the crisis is exacerbated in Russia, then we can expect a substantial damage to the travel industry in spring, from April onwards."

However, Moscow travel agencies have reported a ten-percent decline in the most popular destinations, including Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro and Tunisia.

"Moscow agencies serve the entire country, while in St. Petersburg we have a rather small, long-established circle of companies and a stable position on the market," Korneyev said. "Fortunately, local tour operators, even the largest ones, do not depend on any banks, which would play to their advantage in the current circumstances. The Muscovites have always accused us of being static.' Now, this stability is helping us to survive. "

Hotels in Europe's ten leading tourist destinations have reported declines in occupancy and revenues, according to TRI Hospitality agency. Paris has suffered the biggest losses, with average 31 percent decline in profits, and a ten-percent decline in occupancy. A similar decrease in occupancy was reported in Amsterdam and Vienna. Hotel operators are expected to revise their pricing policies to avoid further decline.

According to official statistics, the five most popular destinations for Russians in 2007 were Turkey, Spain, Germany, Egypt and Finland. France and Greece were very close to the top five.

Nearly 2.5 million Russians visited Turkey in 2007, a 33-percent hike since 2006, according to RST. Russians now account for the second-largest group of foreign tourists, after Germany, and it is expected that they will lead the Turkish market by 2010, when Turkey plans to receive at least 3.5 million Russians.

In St. Petersburg, preferences are slightly different, with Finland holding the prime position, and Germany coming second, followed by Turkey, France and Spain.

Research conducted by RST shows that Russian tourists spend a minimum of $500 a week on services, amusements and souvenirs alone, excluding transportation and accommodation expenses.

Many industry professionals agree that in Europe Russian visitors are now largely seen as a partial substitute for Americans who have stayed away since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

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