The OTDYKH team launches a series of interviews with Russian leading tour operators and travel companies on their travel programs, new offers, recent updates, expectations and forecasts. As part of our interview series, Mr. Taras Demura, CEO TUI Tour Operators, talked about new charter programs and travel offers. He also made a short announcement of the first touristic marketplace. TUI Russia plans to present this marketplace in April.
What are the top travel destinations of the company's offers for the next months? What are the new trends?
Among the top destinations of TUI there are tours to Russia and Turkey. We also have good sales of tours to the UAE and the Maldives.
For winter tours to Turkey, we offer holidays on the Mediterranean coast and sightseeing tours to Istanbul, as well as combined programs, within which you can combine a visit to Istanbul and Cappadocia or go on a journey to the paths of ancient civilizations who lived there. For the summer season, we will offer holidays on the coast of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. We will expand the range of hotels operating according to our FUN & SUN Family, FUN & SUN Active, FUN & SUN Smart concepts. We took over three hotels, these are FUN & SUN FAMILY Life Side 5 *, FUN & SUN FAMILY Life Belek 5 *, FUN & SUN SMART Club Prestige 5 *.
We consolidate our position for the local travel market and expanding our presence in the different regions of Russia. Traditionally, we offer tours to the resorts of Krasnodar Kray, the Kaliningrad Region, the Kavminvody, the Altai, the Republic of Tatarstan, including the Great Volga Route and other regions of Russia. Our website has already posted summer tours to Baikal, for those who want to see the beauty and sights of the Republic of Buryatia and the Irkutsk region during one trip. We are waiting for the adoption of the Government Decree on subsidizing charters. This will allow us to form Russian tours based on charter transportation. We are ready to cover up to 20 local destinations with charters.
We continue to expand the range of weekend tours in Russia. The programs do not include transportation so people themselves could choose a convenient way to get to the place where the program starts - by plane, train, bus, or private car.
Winter sales are almost closed. What turned out to be the most popular, and what on the contrary did not live up to expectations?
Throughout the winter season, we flew to Turkey traditionally to Antalya, and launched charters to Istanbul for the first time. Flights are operated at full load.
Also, we launched charter programs in Russia with the support of Russian tourism and regional authorities for the first time in the winter season. For the New Year holidays, we offered tours to Murmansk, Russian Lapland. We set up charters from Sheregesh to Novokuznetsk. A charter program to Lake Baikal is currently underway. It will last until the end of March. Charters fly to Sochi, where we have agreements with hotels on Krasnaya Polyana. We have expanded the range of offers for Veliky Ustyug. In general, sales of tours in Russia in the winter season increased by 4 times.
There are active sales of beach tours in the UAE and the Maldives, and these directions are booked for one and a half month ahead. All March tours are already sold out, but people can buy a tour which starts in April.
In your opinion, how has Covid-19 pandemic changed tourist consumption? How has the tactics of booking and organized tourism changed? How has COVID-19 impacted organized tourism?
Tourists want to travel and have already adapted to new reality despite the current restrictions. Having to undergo PCR testing is not a problem. Tourists simply remember about that when planning their trip.
We see an increase of interest in domestic destinations for a few reasons: with the launch of charter programs, travel in Russia has become more accessible and travelers feel more confident in their country. Many people began to take extended insurance when buying a tour. Another trend is the reduction in booking. At the same time, having established the specific size of the first installment for the early booking for the summer season, we see good results. The client pays an acceptable for him amount and planned the travel dates, chose a hotel, then the tour operator gives him flexible conditions. Tourists are ready to book when they trust the tour operator.
The situation with the restrictions has become a time for revision of all internal processes of companies, the introduction of new sales channels, digitalization, and the use of innovations. How has your company responded to these changes? What became the main factors of survival or even growth?
We realized quickly when it became necessary to switch to a remote mode of work and this did not affect the company's activities in any way. We also focused on working on IT projects. We are preparing several projects that will become part of the marketplace and will allow us to attract to the site even those tourists who previously preferred to independently organize their trip. The marketplace will be called FUN & SUN and will launch in April.
It is exceedingly difficult to make prognoses now, but still ... In your opinion, when is the recovery and stabilization of the tourism business expected? Should we expect the opening of new foreign destinations in the summer?
I do not want to make predictions. Experts make different assumptions, but in fact it all depends on the epidemiological situation. In each country, depending on the current situation, the authorities decide where the number of cases is declining so restrictions are softened. If, on the contrary, number is increasing so additional security measures are needed. In addition, there is no consensus about vaccination passports. Some countries are questioning the effectiveness of such a tool. Therefore, we focus on the decisions of the Russian authorities and destinations which are open to Russian tourists - Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives. We follow the news in countries whose authorities declare their readiness to soon receive tourists from Russia, such as Cyprus and Greece. We maintain contacts with other foreign partners, exchange news. In any case, we are guided by the official documents of the authorities.28.04.2021