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ITTFA Comment on… Focus on… North-West Russia

While Moscow is very much the centre of business travel in Russia, many leisure travellers make St Petersburg their main focus either as a stand-alone destination, or as part of a two-centre holiday or cruise.

ITTFA has two member exhibitions in Russia – CIS Travel Market in St Petersburg and MITT in Moscow. MITT is very much an international event, whereas CIS – while also having international exhibitors – concentrates mainly on Russia and other former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Anastasia Patrikeeva, promotion manager for CIS, explains: “CIS is the largest travel trade fair of North-West Russia, and is really popular because of its calendar of events that provides professionals with information concerning each aspect of the tourism industry that is of current importance.”

“This year we will focus on recruiting international spa exhibitors. Last year there were 86 spas represented from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Krasnodar in southern Russia. We will also make efforts to recruit spas from North-West Russia as they have natural resources to improve health and meet the required international standards of modern equipment.”

The proximity of St Petersburg to the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia has opened up another important market – cruising, also the subject of seminars at CIS. Demand for cruising has increased significantly as passengers can enter Russia without a visa as long as they are on a group excursion tour and the vessel stays in port for not more than 72 hours.

At CIS seminars there is usually lively discussion not only about the growth in tourism to Russia, but also its problems. The visa requirement holds back demand, as visitors must allow time to send off their passports and pay a fee, but this issue is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future.

The shortage of direct flights is also a problem, especially for St Petersburg. Only a few major European cities have daily flights, by national carriers and locally based Pulkovo Aviation. It is much cheaper to fly within the EU where there are no restraints on competition.

St Petersburg is highly rewarding for those who can afford it, with great historical and cultural appeal and fine five-star hotels including the Astoria, Grand Hotel Europe and Kempinski Hotel Moika 22. But as throughout Russia, there is a shortage of good quality three-star accommodation especially by international brands.

CIS also focuses on the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions market (MICE), which is developing strongly, and on outbound tourism. It is a pivotal link with the Baltic and Scandinavian markets, providing international exhibitors with the opportunity to host a destination briefing to an audience of Russian outbound tour operators and travel agents.

Russia’s emerging middle class is driving annual growth of more than 7% in outbound travel. Of the 24.5 million outbound trips in 2005, just under half were to countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russian air traffic increased by 16.7% in 2006, when Turkey was the most popular destination with nearly 1.4 million Russian visitors. Next came China (827,000), Egypt (423,000), Finland (277,000) and Spain (186,000).

CIS and MITT are members of ITTFA, International Travel Tourism Fairs Association.

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