Russian and CIS hotel guests rose 18% year-on-year in first eight months
Abu Dhabi welcomes first Azur Air charter flight from Moscow
In response to rising demand on routes between Abu Dhabi and Russia, the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism has partnered with Anex, an aviation and tourism services provider, to charter direct flights between the two.
As part of the agreement, twice-weekly charter flights from Moscow to Abu Dhabi International Airport will operate for six months, and the first Azur Air charter landed in Abu Dhabi on Friday evening, with all 186 seats booked.
“This is a huge step forward in Abu Dhabi’s tourism future, particularly for nonstop air service from Russia,” said Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, the acting executive director for the DCT’s tourism sector.
“We are excited to position the capital as the arriving and departing gateway for hundreds of Russian long-stay travellers looking to enjoy a relaxing yet affordable holiday. We are confident that this initiative will enable us to tap into the growing appetite to visit Abu Dhabi and experience its diverse attractions.”
Abu Dhabi has witnessed a dramatic upsurge in travellers – both from Russia and countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – following the visa-free travel requirements implemented at the beginning of the year for Russian residents, the DCT said.
From January to August this year, Russian and CIS hotel guest numbers totalled 59,040 compared to 49,976 in the corresponding period in 2016, an increase of 18 per cent.
Both markets together have shown double-digit growth, while travellers from Russia are among the top three longest-staying visitors in Abu Dhabi, with an average of one to two weeks.
Currently, Abu Dhabi has approximately 1,800 weekly seats from all Russia and CIS markets. With this programme, the Department of Tourism and Culture – Abu Dhabi aims to compensate for the lack of direct flights ahead of an anticipated surge in the number of visitors from Russia and the CIS following the relaxation of visa requirements.
Anex Tour ranks among the top 10 largest and most credible tour operators in Russia, with offices in 37 regions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Last season, the company had 13 weekly charter flights via Azur Air from five Russian cities, including nine flights from Moscow to Dubai.
“We are planning to increase the percentage of sales for Abu Dhabi packages at least twice through the exposed flight programme and increasing the number of exclusive contracts with the hotels,” said Svetlana Volynchuk, the supervisor of UAE within the business development department at Anex Tour.
Abu Dhabi becomes a recognised and loved brand among Russian tourists, who rely on high service hotels, security, convenience of urban infrastructure, varied excursion programme, she said.
“Abu Dhabi is 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than other travel destinations in the region,” said Ms Volynchuk.
Azur Air is one of the largest charter carriers in Russia, according to Mikhail Kritskiy, general manager for Azur Air.
“We see great potential in the development of the flight programme for the UAE. In the autumn-winter season of 2017-2018 year, this direction promises to be one of the most popular for Russian tourists.
“Azur Air actively contributes to the influx of Russians to UAE resorts. Considering the growing interest of Russian tourists to the country ... the airline seeks to promote the development of travel opportunities for Russian citizens and now opens charter flights to Abu Dhabi.”
The Anex Charter Programme focuses on providing a value-added experience for visitors from Russia, with supporting programmes to offer transportation benefits, Anex said. When fully implemented, the programme is expected to lead to a 40 per cent increase in the number of visitors from Russia to Abu Dhabi.