If you book trips via Russian tour operators, you can save a lot of money. For example, fly for 313 euros for a week to Thailand. The test of endurance for foreigners is the Russian visa.
"Chau ken ai chelp ju?" English and Russian fight each other in the sentence melody. Russia wins. There is also a considerable need for readjustment in phonetics. But Anastassia Vorontsova can ask potential customers for their wishes and understand most of them already.
The 23-year-old from Moscow is a travel agent and took a crash course in English in January, with some of the costs incurred by the employer. "An investment in the future," Anastassia believes. The bill could work. What costly image campaigns of the State Agency for Tourism failed to bring about the economic crisis: Since a euro in Moscow exchange offices instead of 40 rubles costs almost double, it hails at Russian travel agencies online inquiries from abroad.
Especially Europeans have discovered Russian airlines as a cheap alternative when planning their vacation. Brave people book their long-distance travel even with organizers in Moscow and St. Petersburg. That makes sense for savers. A week package holiday in Thailand can already be booked from 27,000 rubles, which is currently 313 euros. In Europe, sometimes double is due.
Just since November, Igor Blinow of online Tura has sold his company 364 packages to foreigners. Particularly popular are destinations in Southeast Asia, most prefer to Thailand. Russian tour operators have been active there for a long time and have booked long-term bed forks. 2015, the year when the crisis hit for the first time, was a bad year for them: bookings fell 31.8 percent.
Even agencies that only sell flights, are happy about new customers from abroad. In the past, they came mainly from the successor states of the USSR, now from Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Montenegro and China. Their share of the bookings had increased in December alone by four percent, says a sales manager of DaTravel.
That also makes sense. At least in the timber class and on long-haul routes, Russian airlines are between 20 and 40 percent cheaper than European low-cost carriers. Also, the state carrier Aeroflot's route network is vast and includes many exotic destinations, especially in Asia and Africa, which are popular with the adventurous.
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The challenge for foreigners: You absolutely need an entry visa. This even requires transit travelers who only want to travel from one of the three airports to another in Moscow. The application is cumbersome and time-consuming, the procurement of the documents to be submitted a test of endurance for Schengenland Europeans who travel with the identity card and often do not even have a passport. Currently, the favor of the hour, especially Russian-speaking citizens from Germany and the Baltic States, which have a Russian passport or a multiple-entry visa.
Established companies such as Intourist - monopoly in Soviet times - are taking away part of the paperwork from foreign customers and regretting that they are not yet as far as their counterparts in Iran. There foreigners get the visa stamped when entering the passport.
Even the authorities in the Crimea call for that. Because business with Russian sun-seekers is flopping. Ever since the crisis hit the heels in the wallet, they prefer to spend their holidays on the dacha or with relatives in the village. Especially since the price-performance ratio is not right. The service leaves much to be desired in the Crimea as on the Caucasian Black Sea coast. Between Anapa near Sochi and Antalya, where Russian tourism companies, since Turkey shot down a Russian military machine at the end of November, are no longer allowed to sell travel, are worlds apart.
The attack in Istanbul will also scare off Europeans, Russian in-the-holiday organizers believe and are already promoting this segment with English versions of their websites. For the time being, however, most visitors would only study assortment and prices, says Andrei Gawrilow from the umbrella organization of tour operators. Whether the new trend Go Russia solidifies, let only say itself in a few months. The number of inquiries from foreigners has grown significantly, according to Svjaznoj Travel.
But even the bookings of travelers from countries that border directly on Russia - Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - are so far involved with only just under one percent of total revenue. "In principle," the potential is enormous.
Even companies that specialize in so-called incoming tourism, Russia travel for foreigners, have been doing well since a night in Moscow is not as much as a week Morocco. In the period from January to September 2015, the State Statistics Authority counted 2.54 million Russian visitors, which is 13 percent more than in the same period last year. A good half of them came from China, followed by Germany, the USA, Turkey and the United Kingdom.