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Russian and Ukrainian Tourism Markets Riding High

The UN World Tourism Organisation ranks Russia ninth in the world, in terms of spending on travel abroad.  Outbound trips increased by 17% in 2007, the countries with the highest growth in Russian tourists being Vietnam, Thailand and Austria.  As the trend in overseas holidays continues to grow, encouraged by the increase in disposable income for many Russians, these figures can only increase further.  

Russia itself is growing as a tourist destination and, with new destinations being announced regularly by airlines such as Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines, Russia is developing its tourist infrastructure and opening up to the world.  In August, a new programme for tourism development was announced, which will see 50 million roubles from the government budget invested into promoting tourism in Russia.  A further 160 million roubles will be used to promote Russia as a destination for tourists from all over the world.

Ukraine is following in Russia’s footsteps.  Its travellers are quickly gaining a reputation for being big spenders like their Russian cousins.  With a population of 48 million and GDP growth of over 7%, Ukraine is becoming a desirable market for many destinations.  Increasing numbers of Ukrainian residents are taking holidays abroad and many are venturing further afield from the more traditional destinations in Russia’s neighbouring countries.  This can be attributed to two major factors:  the increase in charter flights to and from the country and increased competition amongst destinations promoting themselves in the Ukrainian market.

The Ukrainian government is investing heavily in the tourism market and, in 2008, UAH 20 million from the national budget will be spent promoting Ukraine as a tourism destination.  23 million tourists visited Ukraine last year and this figure is expected to grow significantly as a result of the new investments and UEFA’s decision to host the Euro 2012 football tournament in the country.  Hotels are springing up across Ukraine, including those commissioned by global hotel chains, such as Intercontinental, Radisson and Hilton.

ITTFA member MITT continues to grow and, in 2008, the event covered 11% more space and commandeered an extra pavilion, Pavilion 8.  Amongst the 118 countries and regions represented at the show, there were many new destinations and MITT’s first ‘partner country’, Turkey presented over 500 companies.  This year, a strict admission policy was introduced whereby the first two days of the exhibition were ‘trade only’.  This proved extremely popular amongst exhibitors, who were able to concentrate fully on business during these two days, making their participation much more effective. 

This year, UITT was chosen as the venue for the launch of Ukraine’s ‘Year of Tourism’.  At the launch, the President of Ukraine, Victor Yuschenko commented, “Over the last 2-3 years, the growth in visits to our country by foreign tourists has been 25% annually, which shows great prospects for our travel industry”.  Confidence in the market is growing and a large number of new destinations could be seen at UITT.  The exhibition featured 688 exhibitors from 58 countries and regions, and showed an impressive 40% compared to the previous year.  UITT also had ‘trade only’ visitors on the first two days of the show.

Meanwhile, Ukraine International Travel Market, (UITM), also a member of ITTFA, has moved site and will celebrate its 15th edition next month when it opens at the International Exhibition Centre (IEC) at Brovarsky Ave in Kiev.   Relocation to the new ground is a result of qualitative and quantitative growth of the Travel Market that annually brings together key tour operators and national travel agencies from 40 countries as well as hotels, SPA, recreation centers and even museums.  The new site also offers a significant number of conference rooms enabling those, who wish, to hold more events and extend their traditionally comprehensive Travel Market program. 

As well as displaying a variety of travel destinations available for Ukrainian tourists today, UITM 2008 will also showcase current world trends and brand-new products available in the travel market. As usual, national pavilions will form a significant part of the event, with at least 14 countries being represented and Poland hosting the largest pavilion.

There are a number of changes occurring in the market and UITM reports an increase in SPA tourism.  Compared with the last year, SPA offers increased by 70%, and the number of exhibiting resorts and health centers doubled. ITE’s Travel Division, the organizers of MITT, report an increasing number of Russian tourists visiting Africa but there are still only a few African countries actively promoting in the Russian market.  To encourage this area of growth, ITE Travel has signed a joint promotion agreement with Africa Travel Association, ATA.

Another area that appears to be on the increase in both Russia and Ukraine, is that travellers are discovering much more ‘exotic’ destinations.  UITM notes a large increase in companies offering products to destinations further afield and Seychelles, Mauritius and Singapore are all newcomers at this years’ event.

All in all, as the choice of destinations and holiday types continues to grow, many more opportunities are being created for those involved in travel and tourism in the region.  Add to this the fact that some countries are cancelling visa requirements for Russian citizens and it looks as though both inbound and outbound traffic is set to  move up a gear.

ITTFA, International Tourism Trade Fairs Association, represents some of the best travel trade events worldwide.  For more details on our members, see

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TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific editorial team has an experience of over 35 years in B2B travel journalism as well as in tourism & hospitality marketing and communications.