Return of the Russian Tourist to the UAE – A Detailed Guide to Capture the Wave for Your Business

April 7, 2021

The UAE tourism sector has been undoubtedly affected by the global pandemic, leading to a significant drop in tourist flow over the last year. This has, of course, also impacted businesses in the UAE that are heavily reliant on tourism to drive sales.

In a post-pandemic world, businesses are now learning to adapt quickly to new consumer behaviors and needs, which will be critical to ensure a successful rebound when tourism ultimately comes back.

We’ve identified some key insights for business in the UAE that rely on Russian travel and tourism, keeping in mind these important questions that serve as a guide to our recommendations:

  1. Will Russians Travel to the UAE this year?

  2. How has the pandemic affected Russian buying power?

  3. What is the best way to capture the tourism wave from Russia?

If you’re a business in the UAE, you likely know that Russian tourists have been one of the most valuable visitor demographics in the region, ranked as the fourth highest performing market by Dubai Tourism. This has been reflected in multiple reports, forecasting that Russian tourism in the UAE will account for approximately 1.22 billion USD by 2023 with an average spend of 1,750 USD per trip per person.

Russian Holidaymakers contribute to a significant proportion of the UAE’s economy, particularly for the industries of hospitality, retail, real estate, tour providers and transport. These sectors are well aware of the Russian tourist profile, nevertheless we will help you get back on track with their return to the UAE holiday scene.

Will Russians Travel to the UAE this year?

Russia has made great advances in handling the global pandemic, taking big steps in mass vaccination, opening public spaces and returning life back to normal – or, at least to the new variations of normal which exist today. This has re-sparked interest in international travel, especially for the upcoming bank holidays that fall on the 3rd and the 10th of May – citizens usually take this opportunity to enjoy a 10-day vacation. Historically, travel agencies have reported an increase in sales by 30% in this time period. Most importantly, the vacation is considered to be family oriented, with 58% of the trips booked by couples and 22% by families with children.

Nevertheless, many countries around the globe are keeping their borders shut, leading to the question – where would Russian Tourists go on holiday without having to quarantine? Destinations include: UAE, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt, Sudan, Zanzibar, Bahamas, Cameroon, Algeria, The Maldives, Morocco, Kenya, Haiti, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.

What you might notice is that the usual “top of the list” vacation spots such as Europe and Asia are gone, suggesting that the UAE is the ultimate retreat for Russian tourists. Why? It provides a winning combination of pleasant weather conditions, a relaxed visa process, frequent flights from major cities, availability of services at different price points, fine dining, shopping and many other benefits that other destinations don’t provide.

Traditionally the United Arab Emirates has been a beloved retreat for Russian tourists, with the annual volume of travelers reaching nearly one million per year before COVID. Even following the travel ban after Q1 in 2020, the UAE still remained in the top three most popular vacation destinations for Russia.

Throughout previous years, the Russian population has consistently travelled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The volume of tourists varies depending on the season, decreasing in the summer and skyrocketing during the colder months. As we can see below, the seasonal cycle has been undisrupted by the pandemic, following the same pattern and momentum as pre-COVID times.

How Has the Pandemic Affected Russian Buying Power?

Russia has taken a big hit by COVID-19, and the situation has led to a minor economic slowdown. As we observed above, the demand for travel has risen to pre-pandemic levels– but it begs the question: Can Russians afford it?

The answer is actually, yes! As the number of destinations has decreased and domestic tourism has poor value for money, holidaymakers will seek foreign destinations – especially the UAE. A study conducted by the largest bank in Russia, Sberbank, showed that the Consumer Confidence Index is up by 40% versus the last year. The overall trend can be observed below, indicating a strong recovery on the consumer side.

This is also supported by the recent shift in holiday preferences, where Russians are seen to stay nearly twice as long in Dubai hotels in comparison to the previous year (8.2 nights VS 4.7 nights accordingly).

We can safely claim that now the UAE will attract tourists with high buying power due to scarcity of destinations available and the strong economic position of individuals.

What is the Best Way to Capture the Russian Tourism Market?

Before the Trip

This is a key stage in identifying and targeting your desired audience, where it is important to create an intent to purchase from Russians. First, your campaign should be created and tested through desired segmentation, building a strong pool of your prospect audience. Over time, a portion of this pool may convert, while you maintain re-targeting of your existing prospects. There are four main routes that have succeeded year on year when it comes to digital marketing tactics:

  1. Search Engine Advertising

One of the key ways to capture Russian audiences is to adopt performance media through local platforms. ForwardPMX thrives through global partnerships, and this year marks our nine-year relationship with Yandex – the leading search engine and the largest advertising partner in Russia. Yandex covers most of the Russian web where you will display your offerings. The infrastructure also provides advertising on their sister-services that include booking trips, taxi, food deliveries and other areas that cover the highest paying Russian audiences that you’re looking to target.

  1. Global and Local Social Media Platforms

The Russian digital space consists of a combination of Global (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) and Local (Vkontakte, Yandex.Zen, Odnoklassniki and Telegram) platforms. Together, it provides a space that will bring attention to your products to anyone who is looking to spend their vacation in the UAE. It is vital to adopt Russia-specific advertising practices to produce the highest ROI with your resources.

  1. Strong Reputation Across Travel Research Portals

Russians, as well as all other tourists, tend to do in-depth research before they make a purchase, whether it be in a shopping mall, a desert safari or a hotel they choose.  It’s vital to maintain strong presence across TripAdvisor, Google Maps and other travel research platforms to ensure your credibility in the market.

During the Trip

As a business owner, it’s vital to attract customers when they have already arrived in the UAE. We follow an important mantra of digital advertising – Prospect and Retarget. In order to attract your key audience, we recommend adopting a three-step solution to increase conversion rates using 1st party data, location and language targeting. Industries such as retail (shopping malls, luxury and high street shops), real estate, tour providers, rentals and transportation benefit the most as transactions occur after the holidaymakers have arrived at their destination. Most importantly, you need to invest efforts into advertising on mobile, as holidaymakers usually use their phone abroad – whether it’s scrolling Instagram or searching for the best restaurant on Yandex.

After the Trip

It’s a well-known fact that a heavy proportion of Russian tourists return to the UAE for future holidays. Thus, we suggest finishing their vacation with a last touch from you to embed brand awareness and promote a positive, relevant brand experience to encourage travel again.

As the global pandemic crisis is gradually fading away, we are optimistic that the travel industry will return to normal levels – while the customer experience might look a bit different. Now is an important time to understand the needs of valuable tourist audiences, like Russian Tourists, who will soon be returning to their most beloved travel destinations in the United Arab Emirates.


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