Russian tourist numbers up for holiday season ({{commentsTotal}})

The coat of snow across the nation welcomed the opening of the Christmas market in Tallinn, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Estonia during the cold winter nights Source: (ERR)

Around a fifth more Russian tourists are expected to visit Estonia during the New Year's and Orthodox Christmas periods compared to last year, as many are seeking alternative destinations from Egypt and Turkey.

Turkey and Egypt both were both popular holiday destinations for Russians, with over five million Russians heading to the two countries last year. After the bombing of a Russian airline over Egypt, many turned to Turkey, but since a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey after an airspace violation a week ago, many have began to shun Turkey too.

Maya Lomidze, head of Russia's Association of Tour Operators, said there is no reason to believe these developments will reverse any time soon. She said the number of Russians holidaying abroad could drop by 40 percent soon. Many are searching for alternative destinations such as Thailand or Estonia.

“These sad events have had an impact on tourists who are traveling here, as many have opted for safe, convenient and small Estonia. We have seen tourist numbers from Russia increase by a third,” said Darja Bojarova, a marketing expert at the Noorus Spa Hotel in Narva Jõesuu.

Külli Karing, head of the Estonian Travel and Tourism Association, said much will depend on the exchange rate and one can not talk of masses of Russian tourists heading to Estonia, although online booking statistics do show a slight improvement.

The end of December and beginning of January is a lucrative period for Estonian tourism companies as many, especially from Russia, travel to Estonia to spend New Year's Eve and the extended Orthodox Christmas holiday straight after. Last year Russian tourist numbers dropped as the ruble spiraled downwards to 85 rubles per euro. The exchange rate has been far more stable this year, hovering around the 70-ruble per euro mark.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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