Dubai: The number of Russian tourists travelling to the GCC in 2020 is expected to be 38 per cent higher than the arrival figures recorded for 2016, according to data published recently by Arabian Travel Market, ATM 2018, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22 to 25.

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 per cent 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 per cent. Both countries eased visa requirements for Russian nationals in 2017, in line with their respective tourism strategies. The Colliers research also showed that UAE visitors to Russia were forecast to increase by 15 per cent in 2018, compared to 2016, as Russia hosts the World Cup.

In the first three quarters of 2017, Dubai reported a 98 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of Russian arrivals, and the country is one of the emirate’s top 10 source markets.

Comparative growth

Elsewhere in the UAE, Russian hotel guest arrivals increased 41 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, according to Abu Dhabi TCA and Ras Al-Khaimah, which recorded a 10 per cent 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 per cent YoY.

Despite the UAE and Oman leading comparative growth, Saudi Arabia is predicted to witness an increase of at least 20 per cent in Russian visitors to the Kingdom by 2020.

According to the report, the increase is being driven by the firming of the Russian rouble, which has been helped by Russia’s decision to join Opec and cut oil production.

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 per cent YoY between 2016 and 2017 and 9.4 per cent of total visitors last year were interested in doing business with Russia.