Russians say ‘da’ to Ajman

It might not have the skyline or malls to match Dubai or the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi, but Ajman is proving popular with visitors from Russia and eastern Europe.

Tourists walk the corridors of the Ajman Saray in Ajman. Hotel managers in the UAE’s smallest emirate say the vast majority of their guests are from Russia and eastern Europe. Sarah Dea / The National
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AJMAN // It might not have the skyline or malls to match Dubai or the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi, but Ajman is proving popular with visitors from Russia and eastern Europe.

Hotel managers in the UAE’s smallest emirate said visitors from the former USSR and CIS region make up the highest percentage of tourists checking in for holidays.

“We have 80 per cent Russians,” said Soraya Agha, PR manager at the Ajman Saray hotel. “The rest are a mix of German and other nationalities. They like resorts and spending time at the beach.”

The UAE is a popular choice for Russian tourists, with more than 400,000 visiting Dubai in 2013.

Lama Tours, which is based in the emirate, handles about 11,000 Russian tourists a year, while Etihad and Emirates have increased their flights between the two countries to meet demand.

In the first three months of the year, Russian tour operator Coral Travel operated charter flights from Moscow for around 12,000 Russian visitors, of whom 8,000 were expected to stay in the northern emirates.

Hotels in RAK and Ajman have targeted visitors from Russia by offering cheaper rates as well as deals.

“Ajman hotels give them very a good rate,” said Ms Agha. “Some of them are very high spenders and others are more on budget.”

Iftikhar Hamdani, cluster general manager at Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman and Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman, said tourists from Russia and the CIS region made up around 52 per cent of guests. However, he has noticed a decrease this year because of the political situation in the region.

To meet the needs of Russian-speaking guests, hotels have changed food menus, entertainment options and employ staff fluent in the language.

The hotel runs a daily bus service ferrying guests to Dubai to visit the malls, while each room has a booklet explaining the attractions in Ajman and nearby Sharjah.

“Our guests are a big mixture; Germany, Russia and United Kingdom,” said Maria Dakova, PR manager at the Kempinski Hotel Ajman.

“The percentage between Germans and Russians in the hotel depends on the time of the year because Russians have different time of vacation, but the ratio is close between them.”

Ms Dakova said rather than putting people off, the slower pace of life in the emirate is big draw for visitors from the former USSR and CIS.

Mizonova Galina, a 57-year-old doctor, chose Ajman for her holiday because of the beaches, and to escape the bitterly cold Russian weather this time of year.

“There is a beach in the resort so no need to take a cab or bus, everything is near in the emirate.

“My friends told me that the water of Ajman is clear. I chose this hotel through my friends and I came to Ajman especially because of the hotel.”

Her compatriot Mironov Michail said compared to Dubai, the emirate was like a “quiet village”.

“I can relax and find the entertaining life that suits my age here. I find Dubai is more for young people,” said the 58-year-old.

newsdesk@thenational.ae