ETW Staff – Mumbai
Fuelled by its growing middle class and rising spending power, Russia is experiencing a travel boom like never before. According to research by Hotels.com, which has just published its Russian International Travel Monitor (RITM), almost half (49 per cent) of hoteliers worldwide have seen a rise in Russian guests in the last year, with 54 per cent of those hoteliers seeing bookings grow by more than 10 per cent or more.
Russia is now the world’s second-fastest growing outbound travel market in terms of spend, up 32 per cent in 2012 and more than doubling since 2005. The RITM examines how hoteliers are reacting to this rapid growth, which last year saw Russians spend US$ 43 billion on travel abroad, making Russia the fifth biggest outbound travel market globally.
Thai hoteliers are witness to this surge in new business. More than 75 per cent have experienced an increase in Russian visitors this year and more than 90 per cent expect an increase next three years. A large proportion of hotel operators in Thailand have also created Russian welcome information and dedicated marketing programmes.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Russia is also currently the largest source market from Europe for visitors to Thailand. In 2012, 1.31 million Russians visited Thailand and the projected number of visitors for 2013 is set at 1.67 million – an increase of 27.8 per cent from the same period last year. The TAT states that major factors behind this massive growth are the increased number of direct flights from Russia to Thailand and the Thai government’s recent 30 day free Visa access policy.
However, with a population of more than 140 million, there is still a huge untapped market for foreign travel. Russia, along with India and China are the fastest growing markets for Thai tourism. The Tourism Authority of Thailand recognises this and has tailor made specific marketing programmes targeting Russians, with 2014 campaign promoting Thailand as a premier honeymoon and wedding destination.
Johan Svanstrom, president, Hotels.com, said, “The meteoric rise of Russia’s outbound travel market is providing a welcome boost to hoteliers worldwide, with Russians among the highest spenders on hotel rooms globally. The rising size and spending power of middle class Russian travellers is a key driver behind this growth. Standing 104 million strong today, the group is set to account for 86 per cent of the country’s population by 2020, with a combined spending power of US$ 1.3 trillion.”
With 92 per cent of the hoteliers surveyed by Hotels.com expecting the volume of Russian visitors to increase over the next three years, many are making changes to deliver a warmer welcome. Almost a third (32 per cent) of hoteliers have already started to offer Russian TV channels while more than a fifth (23 per cent) have hired Russian speaking staff, with a further 12 per cent planning to do so.
To make sure that Russian guests have a more relaxing stay, 15 per cent of hoteliers plan to offer translated welcome materials, in addition to the 20 per cent that already do so, and a further 15 per cent plan to start providing translated travel and tourism guides. One in ten hoteliers (11 per cent) plans to start serving Russian food.