On February 1st the Russian tour operating company PAC Group held a press-conference devoted to the coming cruise season. Ilya Itkin, General Director of the company, and Mikhail Feldman, Head of the Cruise Department, pointed out that a number of Russian tourists who choose cruise product increases annually by 50%. Last year 55% of the company’s clients preferred North Europe routes, while the rest 45% of demand referred to the Mediterranean countries. The top managers of Pac Group believe that the proportion will remain the same in 2007. Therefore, the company intends to double its North Europe volume by operating cruises on two MSC liners – Opera and Lirica, while last year only Opera was involved into North Europe cruises. “The increased demand for the North Europe is explained by the previous underestimation of the destination. It is not excluded that soon Russian tourists will choose Baltic countries, Norway, Iceland due to the convenience of departure from Saint – Petersburg. The same tendency is traced among our European clients, but for them the Mediterranean destinations are more convenient’, explained Ilya Itkin.
Meanwhile, other cruise market players are also preparing for the coming season. The majority of them confirm the increasing popularity of the Northern routes, but some experts doubt its leadership position. ‘Europe is in higher demand that America in the Russian market, but it is to early to divide it into regions. Therefore, I would not say that North is more popular than South’, stated Elena Karmanova, Marketing Director of the Cruise Center of Neptune.
Furthermore, travel market experts point out one more tendency of the coming year: fight of Western cruise companies for the Russian market is becoming tougher, while Russian companies open new horizons in the sea cruises segment. Firstly, the majority of Western cruise operators try to attract Russian clients by optimal prices and discount systems. Thus, MSC organizes free cruises for children under eighteen followed by its main competitor Costa Cruises with the only difference – Costa Cruises do not offer bonuses for children in high season. Secondly, cruise companies gain additional competitive advantage by providing Russian-speaking staff on board. Here the American player Carnival joins the above mentioned European Cruise operators. Experts observe that “the Russian market is attractive for foreign businesses as the developing one and one that provides effectual demand”.
Meanwhile Russian cruise companies are fighting for Western partners. Some of them bank on cooperation with several cruise operators, while others intend to concentrate on one partner. “Here the tactics is dictated by the aim – either to expend product assortment or to develop long-run partnership with one company”, summarized Ilya Itkin.
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