Time for relaxation

The Sports and Tourism Ministry feels optimistic for this year

Despite the number of Russian tourists falling considerably, the Sports and Tourism Ministry feels optimistic for this year


‘Chirochka’ ancient spring custom in the Gomel Region’s Tonezh village enjoys popularity among tourists

Outbound tourism is showing positive dynamics, with our citizens holidaying abroad more often in 2015 than in 2014: over 740,000 people holidayed with the help of tourism agencies last year, rising by 10-11 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, 137,000 tourists entered Belarus this year: the same number as in 2014, but spending less money ($155m-158m).

Vadim Karmazin, the Director for Tourism at the Sports and Tourism Ministry, explains, “Despite the Russian market having fallen by 40 percent, the situation is now improving. According to the assessments of some Russian media, our neighbours are choosing to spend their winter holidays in Belarus. Our sanatoriums, agro-estates and ski resorts are enjoying great popularity, while sanatoriums and hotels are well booked for the New Year, as we see from the booking.com website.”

Viapol and Belarustourist companies are also reporting healthy figures booked onto their tours. The first is forecasting steady figures for the first half of 2016 (comparable with 2014) and with most tourists arriving from Russia. The latter believes it will see a 10 percent drop in numbers. Viapol’s flexible pricing policy (keeping prices the same for Russian customers) is probably helping it remain attractive.

Calculating in US Dollar equivalent, prices for five-day tours have dropped by 35 percent, while three-day tours are 23 percent cheaper. Fortunately, winter and autumn are good times for excursions, as is the New Year, making up for loss of summer visitors.

Fewer Germans and Poles are among our tourists, but numbers of Chinese and Hungarians have risen (by 14 and 23 percent respectively). The Sports and Tourism Ministry has tried to diversify, attracting tourists from other states, primarily, from Europe, China, and Turkey. The Belarusian Ministry has also signed an agreement on co-operation with the Association of Tour Operators, uniting over 2,000 players. Hopes are also pinned on Vietnam, with whom we have signed a co-operative programme for 2016-2018.

The Sports and Tourism Ministry reports that, over the first nine months of 2015, 10 percent more Belarusians visited Turkey (compared to the same period of last year) while Bulgaria was attended by 1 percent more holidaymakers, Egypt by 15 percent more and Greece by 10 percent more.

Mr. Karmazin remarks, “As to how our market has responded to the difficult situation in Egypt and Turkey, we’ve not placed any harsh restrictions, only making recommendations to our tourism agencies and tourists. It’s great to see how the tourism business has tackled the arising issues, in a socially responsible manner. This was especially apparent regarding Egypt, where a great many people wanted to cancel their trip; 90 percent have either postponed their trip until next year or have taken an alternative (to Greece, Spain or Turkey in autumn).”

He adds, “As far as the situation with Turkey is concerned, aircraft continued to fly until mid-October, when the season then drew to a close. Our charter flights to Egypt’s Hurghada are almost fully booked, although Belavia is not currently routing to Sharm el Sheikh, due to lack of demand.”

Belavia isn’t seeing as many Russians flying via Minsk to Egypt as previously. In fact, more people seem to be choosing to stay at home this year, rather than heading to warmer climes, or to European destinations, perhaps concerned by recent events.

By Maria Drukova
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