Russian visitors through Dubai International plunge 18 per cent with economy crumbling

Russian travel industry hard by sanctions and falling oil prices.
Russian visitors through Dubai International Airport have fallen considerably year-on-year. Victor Besa for The National
Russian visitors through Dubai International Airport have fallen considerably year-on-year. Victor Besa for The National

Russian visitors to Dubai dropped by almost a fifth last month as the falling rouble took its toll on the tourism economy. The fact that fewer Russians are visiting Dubai was reiterated by monthly data from Dubai Airports as a deteriorating economy began to take its toll on holidaymakers.

The 18.2 per cent year-on-year plunge in passenger traffic from Russia and CIS countries last month was part of a trend that started in September when numbers fell 5.5 per cent from a year earlier, followed by a fall of 8.2 per cent on an annual basis in October. Russia on Monday said that the GDP fell by 0.5 per cent year on year in November, which has hurt the rouble further. The currency has lost about 42 per cent of its value this year and yesterday fell by the most in almost two weeks against the dollar.

The first week of November is a popular travel season in Russia as it usually takes in a public holiday. The Russian travel season to the UAE can last between September and June. Tour agencies in Dubai are also reporting a fall in the numbers. “This year, it is down by 40 to 50 per cent compared to last year,” said Kulwant Singh, the Lama Tours managing director. “I don’t see many bookings in January and February.” The Russian Federation, the fifth largest outbound travel market in the world, reported 26 per cent growth through September last year, the latest figures available from United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The oil exporting country had sent out an increasing number of tourists on the back of rising income and a strong rouble, until the Crimea crisis this summer. Sanctions from Nato and the European Union, falling oil prices from September, and bankruptcy of some large tour operators in Russia and Ukraine have hit the Russian travel industry hard. “Moreover, Dubai is especially expensive during this time of the year,” Mr Singh said. “We are seeing a rise in the number of tourists from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.” Russian tourists are among the longest stayers in the emirate, averaging at six to seven nights per trip. Fewer Russians are also travelling to Europe, which is closer to home.

Last year, 32 million Russians travelled to the continent, but it is expected to grow by 500,000 this year, around 1.2 million short of the volumes forecast for this year, according to the European Travel Commission.

At Dubai International Airport, Russia and CIS was the only region to buck the trend as passenger traffic increased 4.3 per cent from a year earlier to touch 5.56 million in November.

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Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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