Operators say interest in Russia has risen following Olympics

By Michelle Baran

Moscow, Red SquareTravel companies are reporting an increase in inquiries and bookings for Russia following the close of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Annie Lucas, vice president of Russia specialist operator MIR Corp., credits NBC’s coverage showcasing Russian culture and heritage as well as destinations throughout the country, including Sochi, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“We experienced a spike in call volume and catalog requests after the story [about Mary Carillo riding the Trans-Siberian Railway] aired during primetime Olympics coverage and also after Tom Brokaw’s ‘Space Race’ segment,” said Lucas.

“We've had more bookings for all kinds of Russia trips over the last five business days than the two weeks previous.” Lucas observed earlier this week.

She said that there likely was pent-up demand from travelers waiting to see how effective Russia’s security effort was during the Olympics.

Berkeley, Calif.-based Wilderness Travel said it, too, has seen an interest in Russia trips spike since the Sochi Olympics.

“We’ve had a huge uptick in interest for all of our trips to Russia,” Barbara Banks, director of marketing and new trip development for Wilderness Travel, said in a release.

Others are hoping to capitalize on a marketing opportunity following the Olympics.

Recently launched river cruise company World Quest Cruises, which specializes in Russia and Ukraine sailings, sent an email this week encouraging travelers to continue the excitement of the Olympics with a Russia river cruise.

In 2015, Royal Caribbean will call and overnight in Sochi during the cruise line's first Black Sea cruises.

There is heightened interest in Russia despite some unfavorable coverage, particularly before the Olympics and during the start of the Games.

Suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd in early January put security concerns top of mind. The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for the Winter Olympics.

The Transportation Security Administration temporarily banned travelers from carrying aboard liquids, gels or aerosols on flights from the U.S. to Russia, following a Department of Homeland Security warning that terrorists could smuggle explosive material in toothpaste tubes.

Also, there was unfavorable press about Russia’s law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. And during the Winter Olympics, reporters tweeted about subpar hotel accommodations and harped on logistical challenges.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.
 

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