NEW YORK -- Tour operators and the Moscow City Tourist Office said
the devaluation of Russia's currency by 50% was not likely to have
an immediate effect on travelers because tour and hotel rates are
quoted in U.S. dollars by Russian suppliers.
Earlier this week, the value of the ruble took a precipitous
dip, from 6.3 rubles to the dollar to 9.5.
Tourism officials and operators said visitors should not expect
any changes in the prices of local services or at restaurants
because costs will float up quickly. All goods in Russia must be
purchased in rubles, but restaurants and hotels frequently post
their prices in dollars and then convert the price into rubles for
Olga Egoshina, director of the Moscow City Tourist Office in
Parsippany, N.J., said, "Since inflation makes things more
expensive, it's possible that suppliers might charge slightly more
to account for potential losses in the future. One thing is sure:
Nobody wants rubles right now, and everyone wants dollars."
Bob Drumm, president of General Tours in Keene, N.H., and
Caroline Cavali, president of Russian Travel Bureau in New York,
said the devaluation would have no impact on tour prices because
services are purchased in dollars.
But Drumm added, "Prices may come down depending on what happens
with tourism overall. If business travel is reduced because of the
economic climate, hoteliers may try to attract more leisure
business with lower rates."
Moscow has some of the highest hotel rates in the world, and its
lodgings industry is dependent on business travel.
Drumm also noted that air fares to Russia might go down if
business travel lags. "After the crisis in Asia, it took at least
six months for hotels and local operators to reduce their prices.
They had to see a reduction in traffic first," he said.
Drumm said his concern was more with the social instability that
devaluation could provoke, but he added, "The devaluation is far
less serious than the transition to a market economy in the early
1990s, which left large sections of the Russian population with
General Tours' manager of client services in Moscow, Jennifer
Buttenheim, advised American visitors, "Street vendors and tourist
flea markets will definitely prefer dollars," so come prepared.