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Dubai seeks to draw back Russian tourists with more affordable packages

The weak rouble and strong dollar has put Russians off travelling for the past several years

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
From left: Adnan Aridi, MD, Alpha Destination Management; Ahmad Al Falasi, CEO, Support Services, DTCM; Vladimir Vorobiev, President Natalie Tours; and Natalia Vorobieva, General Director, Natalie Tours addressing media at the 12th Annual congress of Natalie Tours in Dubai.
Gulf News


Dubai is working to become more affordable for Russian tourists hit hard by the collapse of the Russian rouble, said a senior official from Dubai’s tourism authority.

In an effort to bring back Russian visitors, once a mainstay of the country’s tourist population, the UAE has introduced a number of measures, including visas on arrival, to stimulate travel.

“[The decline in the rouble is] why we’re trying to become more affordable. The weak rouble means we have to do more from our side,” said Ahmad Khalifa Al Falasi, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing’s (DTCM) CEO of Support Services.

He added that Dubai was adjusting its offering to try to lessen Russian currency challenges and lure Russians back to the emirate.

“It’s important that we [adapt] ourselves to the current situation, the economy is not like before, so Dubai has to [change its offering] to meet the expectations of the Russians today, based on their status,” Falasi told Gulf News in an interview.

Russian tour operators say they have seen the number of visitors to the UAE nearly double since the country was granted visa on arrival status earlier this year.

According to Vladimir Vorobyev, the president of one of Russia’s largest tour operators to Dubai, since the rule came into effect in February the sales of tours to the UAE have doubled, and continue to show positive growth.

Falasi declined to say if any nationalities would be granted visa on arrival status in 2018, but he did add that he wanted “to see more” countries get the status.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, the UAE received more than 600,000 Russian tourists, according to state news agency WAM. This is expected to increase this year.

‘We understand the challenges and weak points, and we’re working on the product of Dubai itself. We want to cater to everyone, business people, family, entertainment, we try to customise what is needed, to continue to attract more Russians,” Falasi said.

The UAE has been working to attract visitors from its once-core markets, including Russia, which have declined in recent years due to economic slowdowns and a strong dollar. The UAE dirham is pegged to the dollar.

Al Falasi added: “We will work [around] the rouble and the economy — we want Russians to come, so we will do what it takes.”

In July 2017, Dubai-based flydubai announced the addition of three destinations to its Russian network, bringing its presence in the country to ten cities. This autumn, the airline will launch flights to Makhachkala and Voronezh and resume services to Ufa.

Flights from Dubai to Makhachkala and Voronezh will operate twice a week, starting October 31, 2017 and October 29, 2017, respectively.

Services to Ufa will relaunch on October 31, with three flights a week. Flydubai will be the only UAE-based carrier offering direct air links on these routes.