Arabian Travel Market is set to be busy. Arabian Travel Market is set to be busy.

The number of Russian tourists travelling to the GCC in 2020 is expected to be 38% higher than the arrival figures recorded for 2016, according to data published by Arabian Travel Market 2018.

The value of the Russian rouble is stable and firming up, and with Russia’s decision to join OPEC and cut oil production, tourism has seen a boost.

Over the last 25 years, Russia has been well represented at ATM, with exhibitors including Moscow City Government, National Tourist Union and the city of St Petersburg. Russian visitors to the exhibition increased 17% YoY between 2016 and 2017 and 9.4% of total visitors last year were interested in doing business with Russia.

ATM senior exhibition director Simon Press said in a statement: "Traditionally, the GCC has always been popular with Russian tourists but over recent years, we have witnessed some fluctuations in their arrival rates across the GCC, which was a reflection of volatility in the financial and energy markets. As those factors begin to steady, we are seeing more and more Russian visitors arrive and we expect this to continue."

Russia’s links with the GCC strengthened in 2017 with the introduction of additional airline routes, visas on arrival in the UAE for Russians, a new generation of leisure attractions, retail destinations and a broad range of hotels and resorts right across the GCC region.

"An increase of 38% on 2016 arrival figures provides a significant boost to the regional tourism industry and is supported by a number of stakeholders, from immigration initiatives, to the region’s hotels, its F&B venues, resorts, theme parks and malls, which all appeal to Russian visitors,” he continued.

Commissioned by ATM, ahead of its 25th edition, the research study by Colliers International found that while the UAE will account for the majority of Russian arrivals, Oman will actually experience the highest CAGR at 9.2%. Both countries eased visa requirements for Russian nationals in 2017, in line with their respective tourism strategies. The Colliers research also revealed UAE visitors to Russia were forecast to increase by 15% in 2018, compared to 2016, as Russia hosts the World Cup.

In the first three quarters of 2017, Dubai reported a 98% year-on-year increase in the number of Russian arrivals, and the country is one of the emirate’s top 10 source markets. Further supporting the demand, flydubai twice extended its Russian network in 2017, adding flights to Makhachkala, Voronezh and Ufa, and daily flights to a second airport in Moscow - Sheremetyevo International.

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With equal appeal to business visitors, Dubai was named the most popular Russian real estate investment destination in 2016, driven by the emirate’s market supply of off-plan luxury properties.

Elsewhere in the UAE, Russian hotel guest arrivals increased 41% in the first quarter of 2017, according to Abu Dhabi TCA and Ras Al Khaimah, which recorded a 10% YoY increase in international arrivals in the first half of 2017, Russia was the second largest source market last year, with arrivals from the country up 84% YoY.

Saudi Arabia is also predicted to witness an increase of at least 20% in Russian visitors to the Kingdom by 2020.

ATM 2018 has adopted 'responsible tourism' as its main theme and this will be integrated across all show verticals and activities, including focused seminar session, featuring dedicated exhibitor participation. The event will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25, 2018.