Strange Love? U.S. Tourists Flock to Russia in Record Numbers
Demand for U.S. tourism to Russia has surged in the past year, as American tourists have flocked to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and some of the other cities and attractions the nation has to offer.
In spite of—or perhaps because of—tenuous political relations between the two countries, tourism demand has seen an undeniable spike.
“The demands have been going up for the past six to seven years,” Ivan Shirokov, managing partner of Firebird Tours, a Russian travel company that services 20,000 travelers every year, told Travel + Leisure.
While demand dropped off slightly during the Ukraine crisis in 2014 and in its immediate fallout, the numbers have picked up and even surpassed the years before.
“It has been steadily growing, and this year so far we’ve seen the record numbers,” Shirokov said.
Other travel companies also saw a surge in bookings to Russia, with the Globus brand seeing a 38 percent increase, and Tauck Land Journeys seeing double-digit growth in its Russian tours between 2015 and 2016, according to a recent report published in Travel Pulse.
Tour operators offer different explanations for the spike in demand, with Shirokov pointing to the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution as well as the long, complicated, and often controversial history between the U.S. and Russia.
Another travel expert had a more contemporary rationale for the elevated interest: “Russia is selling like hotcakes,” Paul Wiseman, president of Russian tour group Trafalgar USA, told Travel Pulse. “It goes to show, first, you can’t predict what is going to happen. Secondly, any news is good news. There has been so much talk about Russia everyone is opening the brochure and going to the Russia pages and going, ‘What is this place? What’s this about?’ And they’re booking trips.”
In the nation’s capital of Moscow, visitors can tour the Kremlin, stroll the Red Square, and see some of the contemporary art that the country has to offer. Tourists to St. Petersburg can discover some of Russia’s 19th century charm, seeing the places that inspired the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Shirokov told T+L that Americans tend to be drawn almost exclusively to certain cities and attractions such as Moscow and the Kremlin, St. Petersburg and the Hermitage, Russian river cruises, and the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Given the sheer vastness of the country, however, there are many other destinations to discover, Shirokov notes. He recommended visiting the volcanic islands of Kamchatka, going on a safari to see the famous Siberian tiger, and making a trip to the city of Kazan, the unofficial Muslim capital of Russia and one of the future host cities of the 2018 FIFA games.
“Our countries have so much history with each other, good and bad, and it’s about time to explore,” he said.