With the recent suspension of air links with Egypt, Russian tourists' searches for tours has changed dramatically. According to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), Thailand has now gained the top spot among destinations, followed by India and Vietnam. Our editors found several other destinations where winter vacationing makes sense for Russians too. Here's the lowdown on Thailand and vacation spots like Crete.
According to the report, November requests for Thailand were about 20% of the overall market, a number some 4.1% more than in November 2014 and 8.3% more than in October 2015. ATOR also showed a likewise reduction in trips to Egypt, with an almost 4% increase in trips to Vietnam. Overall, in November 2015 only 13 countries out of the TOP 30 requests for tours showed positive numbers compared to October's figures. Those countries were; Thailand, India, Vietnam, UAE, Sri Lanka, Israel, Mexico, Bulgaria, Andorra, Abkhazia, Austria, China and Jordan. Before the current crisis in between Russia and Syria, Turkey was the leader in the share of requests early in 2015. The Summer say Thailand followed closely by Greece, Spain and Cyprus.
Looking at current opportunities for Winter vacationing for Russians, Thailand remains a super value, especially for vacationers in the east of Russia given flight times. For Moscovites and travelers from St. Petersburg, the warm waters of the Aegean still beckon. Even still, Aeroflot has direct flights to Phuket for as little as $726 dollars (about 53,000 rubles) which take only 9 hours. Accommodations in Phuket vary obviously, but middle of the road accommodations range from about €50 euro per night and up. The "Sleep With Me Hotel" (above) is a good example of what travelers can expect in this part of Thailand.
Even better deals are available for destinations that are trying to extend their touristic seasons. A good example our team is familiar with is the Island of Crete in Greece. Warm Winters provide ample incentive to visit the land of the ancient Minoans anyway, but the current economic situation further accentuates the appeal of such destinations. Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno, and other Crete seaside communities offer year round economy, but we've found several
Lato Boutique Hotel (TASS) has just created incentives for Winter visitors via their website, but we also became aware of added rate reductions at the four star hotel in Heraklion too. The hotel's director told us Lato is offering an additional 20% off the lowest advertised rates for superior rooms there to help Russian's decide on Crete for their Winter holidays. Maria Sifaki told us at the time of this writing the lowest rate is €61 euro via the website promotion, so subtracting 20% from that spells real luxury accommodations at rock bottom, even below what Phuket prices are. Flights via Aegean Air from Moscow to Heraklion are less than €300 round trip, and the flight time is about half that to Thailand. Incredible Crete is a great site with tons of information about this historic and picturesque island.
Moscow to Larnaca shows flights below €300 euro as well, only with more substantial layover time than the Crete ones. As for accommodations, luxurious hotels on Cyprus are as anxious as the Crete ones to lure Russian travelers during the off season. A good example here is the Saint Elena Boutique Hotel, where four star pampering comes in at under €55 euro per night. For more information on Cyprus, we recommend Visit Cyprus to find out more about what's to do and see in the Wintertime there.
An often overlooked Mediterranean paradise, Malta has mild winters where the seas are warm enough to swim in well into the season. For Russians, calling the island a year round sea bathing destination is certainly not misleading. Wintering here with the family offers a respite from Moscow's frigid surrounds, and cultural and sightseeing value to be found nowhere else. Visit Malta shows of the island well, and the flights are as cheap or cheaper than those to Cyprus and Crete. As for hotels, the best ones are a tad more expensive than the other destinations mentioned. A great example is The Waterfront Hotel right along the Sliema Promenade. Rooms here go for just under €80 per night, but the views and accommodations make up for the lost change as you can tell from the view from the rooftop terrace above.
Additional photo credits: Feature image of Balos Lagoon via Zorba's Island Apartments on Crete.