Nearly 3 million foreigners visit Moscow in first half of 2011

MOSCOW, September 6 (Itar-Tass) —— Nearly three million foreigners visited Moscow in the first half of this year, head of the city tourism and hospitality committee Sergei Shpilko said.

He said the rate increased by 11.5% since last year. “The occupancy of Moscow hotels grew by 7-8% this summer,” the official added.

“The city tourism and hospitality committee and tour operators are forming a new tourist product and developing event tourism in Moscow,” he said. “The rivalry on the world market of event tourism has tightened recently. Moscow may compete with many cities and countries popular with tourists.”

Russia plays host to numerous events, such as the MAKS aerospace show, the Spasskaya Bashnya festival and the festival of military history clubs. “These events should be adapted for foreign tourists,” Shpilko said.

“Moscow is gaining its score as a host of large sport events. We expect the tourist flow to grow to 6-7 million by the 2018 World Cup,” he said.

Shpilko forecasted a growth of foreign tourists in Moscow to 4.3 million this year.

The number of foreign tourists in Russia grew in the first half of the year, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said. Some 11.5 million citizens of 212 states visited Russia in that period, which was 14% more than last year. Only 7% of the foreign visitors were tourists, the Association said.

It also said that more than 6 million Russian tourists spent vacations abroad in the first half of this year.

The total number of Russians who made foreign trips in that period exceeded 18 million, which was 15% more than in January-June 2010, the Association said.

About 70% of all trips were made to countries outside the former Soviet Union territory, and the rest were made to CIS member states. Over 50% of all trips were made with personal invitations, and slightly more than 30% of all travelers were tourists.

According to the Association, the most popular destinations in the first half of 2011 were Turkey (visited by more than one million Russians) and China (over 600,000 tourists). Egypt ranked third with about 500,000 Russian tourists.

The altered situation in Egypt influenced preferences of Russian tourists, the Association said. “Due to the travel alert for Egypt, many tourism destinations showed unprecedented dynamics. For instance, the number of tourists visiting Cuba doubled to 46,000, while the number of tourists that preferred vacations in the Dominican Republic grew by almost 60% to 52,000,” the Association said.

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