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Moscow courts UAE to bump up inbound tourism

The majority of Moscow's tourism is from internal visitors but it is hoping the UAE and wider Gulf can change that Moscow City Tourism Committee
The majority of Moscow's tourism is from internal visitors but it is hoping the UAE and wider Gulf can change that
  • Moscow targetting UAE tourism
  • International visitors 10% of total
  • Gulf tourists spend more

Moscow aims to double the number of annual visitors from the UAE this year, to expand its international tourist base amid headwinds such as the war with Ukraine. 

Bulat Nurmukhanov, head of the International Cooperation Division at Moscow City Tourism Committee (MCTC), told AGBI that while the Russian capital’s domestic tourism has broadly recovered since the pandemic, international tourism has yet to do so. 

Moscow received 24.3 million visitors in 2023, he said, of which 2.3 million were international and the rest were from elsewhere in Russia. In 2019, Moscow recorded 25 million visitors, of which four million were from overseas.  

“Despite the challenges Moscow faces today, it has almost recovered its pre-Covid visitor flow of 2019 – our best year for the industry, helped by the effect of hosting the Fifa World Cup in 2018,” Nurmukhanov said.  

“But most of these are domestic tourists. We hope that by working with new markets such as the UAE, we can restructure the international tourism base and attract more visitors from the Emirates and wider GCC.”

Moscow has yet to calculate the number of visitors from the UAE last year, but it is a small proportion of the overseas total, according to Nurmukhanov. However, it is an important source market because of its higher-than-average spend per visit. 

“They’re helping load Moscow’s five-star hotels”, he said. These are not as popular among domestic tourists and other nationalities as three and four-star hotels. 

Bulat Nurmukhanov of the Moscow City Tourism Committee hopes working with the UAE can ' restructure the international tourism base'MTCT
Bulat Nurmukhanov of the Moscow City Tourism Committee hopes working with the UAE can ‘restructure the international tourism base’

Last summer, MCTC revealed that tourists from the Middle East accounted for more than 30 percent of Moscow’s total tourist flow from outside the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2022. 

“Middle Eastern countries are among the most promising markets for inbound tourism,” the committee noted. 

In the UAE, the number of Russian tourists and investors leapt in the year after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russian businesses sought a safe haven free of sanctions imposed on them by the West. 

Bilateral trade between the two countries has also risen sharply, by 63 percent between January and September 2023 to $9 billion, according to Russia’s government. 

Nurmukhanov said: “We’re already receiving a decent amount of tourists from the UAE and want to make sure that now, we adapt our infrastructure and design new hospitality products, entertainment and offerings that will be in their interest.” 

The strategy includes enhancing relationships between Moscow and UAE hotels, travel agents and tour operators; improving restaurants’ halal offerings; translating menus and other literature to Arabic, and promoting popular activities such as bear hunting, helicopter trips and horse riding.  

Some Moscow hotels even help GCC tourists to purchase warm clothing for their trip, Nurmukhanov said. Gulf visitors can obtain visas on arrival in Russia, and in November a rapid e-visa service was extended to other countries.  

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