New research says rising demand from Russian visitors will create an extra 2.9 million room nights in the Gulf over the next five years
The number of Russian tourists travelling to the GCC is expected to increase 125 percent from 933,000 in 2018 to 2.1 million in 2023, according to data published ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2019.
The latest research published by Colliers International predicts the increase in Russian tourists to the GCC to create an extra 2.9 million room nights over the coming five years.
It said Russia’s links with the GCC have strengthened in recent years due to the introduction of additional airline routes, relaxed visa regulations for Russian nationals, the oil price recovery and stabling of value of the Russian rouble.
Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: "Traditionally, the GCC has always been popular with Russian tourists. However, in 2015 the GCC experienced a large drop in the number of Russian visitors, which was a reflection of volatility in the financial and energy markets. As both factors continue to steady, we are once again witnessing a huge increase in Russian visitors and we expect this to continue."
Russia continues to be one of the top 10 source markets for the UAE, with 530,000 Russian visitors entering the UAE in 2017, a 121 percent increase from the previous year.
This increase stemmed from the UAE’s introduction of visas on arrival for Russian tourists last year.
Colliers International expects this trend to continue in 2018, with 895,700 Russian visitors expected, an increase of 69 percent from 2017.
Supporting this demand, in June Emirates announced a third daily flight to Moscow, while in September the airline confirmed that it would be the first to fly an A380 to St Petersburg.
Etihad Airways and flydubai have also increased their flights between the UAE and Russia, with flydubai twice extending its Russian network in 2017, adding flights to Makhachkala, Voronezh and Ufa, and daily flights to a second airport in Moscow - Sheremetyevo International.
While the UAE is expected to account for the majority of Russian arrivals in 2018, Saudi Arabia witnessed the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2013 and 2018, at 20 percent compared with 17 percent for the UAE.
“Higher Russian visitor numbers will help support investment opportunities and economic diversification, in line with the kingdom’s plans to target 30 million visitors annually by 2030,” added Curtis.
Despite the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading comparative growth, Oman witnessed an increase of 11 percent between 2013 and 2018, while Kuwait experienced an aggregate growth rate of 7 percent.
ATM takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 28 to May 1 2019.