Iraq War Heavily Impacts on Russia's Tourism Industry

The war in Iraq has made a considerable impact on Russia's tourism business.

Spokesman for the tourism department of the country's Economic Development and Trade Ministry, Alexander Sorokin, told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that travel to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Egypt was hit hardest.

The tourism department's figures show that charter flights to the UAE had declined as bookings for Russia's May holidays were sluggish. "Hotel occupancy in Egypt stands at 30-35 percent, even as hotel owners are offering unseen prices for that country: a stay in a four-star hotel costs 7 dollars per night and some even offer 3 dollars," said Sorokin, citing statistics from travel agencies.

Fighting in Iraq has meant that flagship Russian airline Aeroflot's passenger traffic is 29 percent down from last year. Overall, passenger traffic from Russia to the Middle East has decreased by 15 percent. Fear of flying has meant that nationals from the United States and Britain have been canceling tours to Russia and tourism from Japan and Spain has declined too.

Meanwhile, Sorokin reckons that sun and sea-loving Russians are bound to travel somewhere anyway. Tours to Europe for the coming May holidays are fully booked up. Demand for travel to Cuba and Latin America has risen.

Another spokesman for the tourism department, Anatoly Yarochkin, opined that if the military conflict in the Middle East were to drag on, family tourism would go down "without qualification." Russians would likely increasingly opt to travel to the Russian resorts on the Black Sea instead.

However, he noted that Russians were inherently "spontaneous," meaning that whereas Americans and Britons would not travel to a war zone under any circumstances, Russians "might as well take a risk."

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