Published on : Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Fueled by its growing middle class and rising spending power, Russia is experiencing a travel boom like never before, according to research by Hotels.com®, which today publishes its Russian International Travel Monitor (RITM). Almost half (49 percent) of hoteliers worldwide have seen a rise in Russian guests in the last year, with 54 percent of those hoteliers seeing bookings grow by 10 percent or more. Moreover, three of the top 20 overseas destinations for Russian travelers are in the United States.
Russia is now the world’s second-fastest growing outbound travel market in terms of spending, up 32 percent in 2012 and more than doubling since 2005. The RITM examines how hoteliers are reacting to this rapid growth, which last year saw Russians spend $43 billion on travel abroad, making Russia the fifth biggest outbound travel market globally, closely following the U.S. 
In 2012, 35.7 million tourists from Russia took a foreign trip, up from just 7.7 million in 2006.  The country has become a top performing growth market for many destinations and international outbound travel is forecast to grow by 7.5 percent per year on average to 2017. However, with a population of more than 140 million, there is still a huge untapped market for foreign travel that will create demand for different types of holiday and new destinations that are bound to make an impact on the pattern of world tourism.
Looking at data from the most recent Hotel Price Index™ (HPI®) issued by Hotels.com, the most popular overseas destinations for Russian travelers was an eclectic mix of short and long haul favorites. Three of the top 20 cities on the leaderboard were in the U.S. Las Vegas debuted at number 20, New York and Miami remained on the list ranking at number 6 and number 18, respectively. Los Angeles dropped from the chart.
According to the HPI, New York is positioned as the third city where Russian travelers spend the most, only preceded by Dubai and Geneva. The start of the year saw a further rise of 5 percent in New York’s average hotel price, taking it to $217 USD a night. Miami and San Francisco also made the list and saw an increase of one and six percent, respectively.
Johan Svanstrom, president of the Hotels.com brand, said: “The meteoric rise of Russia’s outbound travel market is providing a welcome boost to hoteliers worldwide, with Russians among the highest spenders on hotel rooms globally. The rising size and spending power of middle class Russian travelers is a key driver behind this growth. Standing 104 million strong today, the group is set to account for 86 percent of the country’s population by 2020, with a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion. 
Many hoteliers also supported this fact as 43 percent said that Russians are now spending more money on their travels. Moreover, Russians are becoming more confident and independent, with improved foreign language skills. More than half (53 percent) already book their accommodation online with only 32 percent opting for a traditional travel agent.
With 92 percent of the hoteliers surveyed by Hotels.com expecting the volume of Russian visitors to increase over the next three years, many are making changes to deliver a warmer welcome. Almost a third (32 percent) of hoteliers have already started to offer Russian TV channels while more than a fifth (23 percent) have hired Russian speaking staff, with a further 12 percent planning to do so.
To make sure that Russian guests have a more relaxing stay, 15 percent of hoteliers plan to offer translated welcome materials, in addition to the 20 percent that already do so, and a further 15 percent plan to start providing translated travel and tourism guides. One in 10 hoteliers (11 percent) plans to start serving Russian food.
As Russian tourists continue to permeate the U.S. market, back at home Russian hoteliers are preparing for an influx of visitors themselves in February for the Winter Games. According to Russian officials, Sochi, the host city, is planned to become a winter destination after the games conclude.