By Rafiq Vayani
DUBAI: The number of Russian tourists travelling to the GCC in 2020 is expected to be 38% higher than the arrival figures recorded for 2016, according to data published recently by Arabian Travel Market 2018, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25, 2018.
Looking at the economic drivers, the value of the Russian rouble is stable and firming gradually, helped by Russia’s decision to join OPEC and cut oil production, which has supported an oil price recovery to over $60 per barrel, while forecasts for 2018 put oil at an average of $57 per barrel, a 5.6% increase over 2017.
Over the last 25 years, Russia has been well represented at ATM, with exhibitors including Moscow City Government, National Tourist Union and the city of St Petersburg. Russian visitors to the exhibition increased 17% YoY between 2016 and 2017 and 9.4% of total visitors last year were interested in doing business with Russia.
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “Traditionally, the GCC has always been popular with Russian tourists but over recent years, we have witnessed some fluctuations in their arrival rates across the GCC, which was a reflection of volatility in the financial and energy markets. As those factors begin to steady, we are seeing more and more Russian visitors arrive and we expect this to continue.”
Russia’s links with the GCC strengthened in 2017 with the introduction of additional airline routes, visas on arrival in the UAE for Russians, a new generation of leisure attractions, retail destinations and a broad range of hotels and resorts right across the GCC region.
“An increase of 38% on 2016 arrival figures provides a significant boost to the regional tourism industry and is supported by a number of stakeholders, from immigration initiatives, to the region’s hotels, its F&B venues, resorts, theme parks and malls, which all appeal to Russian visitors,” he continued.
Commissioned by ATM, ahead of its 25th edition, the research study by Colliers International found that while the UAE will account for the majority of Russian arrivals, Oman will actually experience the highest Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), at 9.2%. Both countries eased visa requirements for Russian nationals in 2017, in line with their respective tourism strategies. The Colliers research also revealed UAE visitors to Russia were forecast to increase by 15% in 2018, compared to 2016, as Russia hosts the World Cup.
Already feeling the benefits, in the first three quarters of 2017, Dubai reported a 98% year-on-year increase in the number of Russian arrivals, and the country is one of the emirate’s top 10 source markets. Further supporting the demand, flydubai twice extended its Russian network in 2017, adding flights to Makhachkala, Voronezh and Ufa, and daily flights to a second airport in Moscow – Sheremetyevo International.
With equal appeal to business visitors, Dubai was named the most popular Russian real estate investment destination in 2016, driven by the emirate’s market supply of off-plan luxury properties.
Elsewhere in the UAE, Russian hotel guest arrivals increased 41% in the first quarter of 2017, according to Abu Dhabi TCA and Ras Al Khaimah, which recorded a 10% YoY increase in international arrivals in the first half of 2017, Russia was the second largest source market last year, with arrivals from the country up 84% YoY.
Despite the UAE and Oman leading comparative growth, Saudi Arabia is predicted to witness an increase of at least 20% in Russian visitors to the kingdom by 2020.
Press added: “Russia is once again turning to the GCC for its year-round sunshine, world-class hotels and resorts and fast-paced leisure and safe investment landscape.”
ATM 2018 has adopted Responsible Tourism as its main theme and this will be integrated across all show verticals and activities, including focused seminar session, featuring dedicated exhibitor participation.
ATM – considered by industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, welcomed over 39,000 people to its 2017 event, including 2,661 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than $2.5 billion over the four days.
Celebrating its 25th year, ATM 2018 will build on the success of this year’s edition, with a host of seminar sessions looking back over the last 25 years and how the hospitality industry in the MENA region is expected to shape up over the next 25.