MALAYSIA should market its tourism industry aggressively in Russia in view of the emerging middle and upper-middle class there, Taganskoe Ltd chief consultant Boris Grozovsky said.
More and more middle and upper-middle class Russians are travelling abroad and Asian countries are fast becoming their favourite destinations.
Grozovsky said it was timely for tourism ministries and travel agents of both countries to work together.
He said Taganskoe, which handles outbound Russian tourist groups to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, saw potential growth in the number of Russian tourists visiting Malaysia.
Malaysia could attract more Russian tourists if the right marketing strategies are in place, Grozovsky said in an interview with StarBiz.
He said efforts should be made to promote Malaysia in major Russian cities through regular advertising and promotions.
Grozovsky was speaking during a lunch hosted by Pulai Springs Resort in conjunction with the familiarisation and marketing (FAM) visit by 30 Russian travel agents to Johor recently.
The Russian travel agents visited Pulai Springs Bhds hospitality properties, Pulai Springs Resort and Pulai Desaru Beach, and agro-tourism-related activities in Desaru.
Grozovsky said many Russians were holidaying overseas over the last five years and the number was likely to increase due to higher economic growth.
He said although the European and Mediterranean countries remained their favourite destinations, countries in the Far East, which the Russians consider exotic, were getting popular.
However, he said, the number of Russian tourists visiting countries in the region had slightly declined since 2001 due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome and avian influenza scare.
Grozovsky said Russians visiting countries in this region preferred to rest by the beaches, apart from the usual shopping and visiting places of interest.
He said Malaysia had a long line of beautiful white sandy beaches, especially in the east coast, to attract Russian tourists.
Golfing is another area where Malaysia could focus on due to the growing number of golfers in Russia, especially from the middle and upper-middle classes people, Grozovsky said.
He said Moscow, with 10 million denizens, had only one golf course that opened just five months in a year and players had to book in advance to tee-off.
He said Taganskoe planned to work closely with Pulai Springs Resort and Pulai Desaru Beach Resort to attract golfers to Johor.
Night golfing is also something new to us and it will be a good experience as golfers back home did not tee-off at night, he added.
OMB Group director Irina Yakhuseva said on average, Russian holidaymakers spent about two weeks for their overseas vacations.
She said that during the holiday period, they would visit two or three countries, depending on the itineraries, spending five days in each destination.
Yakhuseva said they love spending leisure time by the beach resorts, sampling local dishes, seafood, tropical fruits and experience something different.
She said the ladies of the group and even some men were impressed when they visited the spa facilities at Pulai Springs Resort.
She suggested that a day at the spa be included in the visit to Johor, adding it would be a hit among Russian women, as they loved to be pampered.
Yakhuseva said communication might be a problem, as the majority of Russian tourists did not speak English well, adding that more Russian-speaking guides were needed here.
Pulai Springs Resort Bhd general manager Gerard P.M. Hanssen said the FAM trip would be a stepping stone to attract more Russian visitors.
He said the company had identified Russia as a new emerging market and wanted to tap some 25 million Russians in the middle-income group.
This is a huge market for us and well work with our counterparts there to attract more Russians to visit Johor, he said.
Apart from Russia, Hanssen said the company also targeted visitors from the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Japan and Sweden to its hospitality properties here.
He said Pulai Springs Resort Bhd would regularly host FAM trips for travel agents from these countries to its two hospitality properties in Johor.
We are working closely with the Japan Travel Bureaus regional office in Singapore to market our properties in Japan, he said.
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