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Russians Travel Abroad in Large Numbers

Russians are traveling in large numbers despite the worldwide slowdown in tourism since the September terrorist attacks in the United States.

Russian tourists have places to go and money to spend when they get there.

According to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, about 18 million Russian tourists traveled abroad last year. That is 10 percent more than the previous year. And it is almost double the amount that traveled abroad in 1998, the year Russia suffered a major financial crises.

This trend is especially surprising after September 11, when the number of tourists, especially Americans, dropped dramatically.

Dmitri Soultanov is the marketing manager for the Moscow office of the Cyprus Tourism Organization. He said few Russians canceled their vacations as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. "Americans, they stopped traveling, and a lot of Europeans, they were afraid to fly," he said. "Not for Russians. The events of September 11, of course they shocked people in Russia but not enough to cancel their holidays."

Some of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists include Egypt, Spain, Cyprus, and Italy.

And when they get where they are going, Russians know how to have a good time. Many people taking part in the travel exposition said Russians spend more money than tourists from other countries - a lot more.

Laurent Colette is the commercial director for Universal Mediterranea, a theme park and resort in Spain. He said Russian visitors to the park rank third, behind visitors from England and France. But when it comes to spending money, Russians take first place. "They spend a lot of money, they're our best customers in what we call the in park per cap," he said. "Because when they visit a theme park, they buy a lot of souvenirs or t-shirts, I think they want to keep with them a lot of souvenirs from their stay, so they are good customers for us in that sense. "

The high number of tourists traveling abroad reflects the fact that Russia is in its third year of economic growth, which is expected to continue this year.