NEW YORK -- As the summer high season nears, tour operators to
Russia report steady bookings and, despite exotic possibilities,
continuing interest by Americans in standard attractions.
City stays in and motorcoach tours to Moscow, St. Petersburg and
the country's "Golden Ring" of medieval towns, along with cruises
on the Volga and trips on the trans-Siberian railway, remain the
most popular tour products for this year, according to Dina Kevra,
executive manager at the Russian National Group in New York.
"Most Americans visiting Russia are going for the first time, so
they want to visit the main attractions," she said. "I can't say
there's much interest in [other places]."
That, in a multicultural nation spanning Europe and Asia and 11
Predrag Krivokapic, president of Kompas Holidays International
in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agreed, although he also noted the
popularity of trips pairing Russia with ex-Soviet republics
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
(Although now positioning themselves as Scandinavian states of
sorts, the three countries -- long ruled from Moscow -- have large
Russian minorities and considerable Tsarist and Soviet
In addition, "[Kompas] sees an increase in requests for FIT
programs" focusing on the St. Petersburg-to-Moscow axis, Krivokapic
Bookings at both tour operators remain encouraging, with Russia
business at Kompas up 10% compared with the same period in
"We're very pleased this year," said Krivokapic, adding that
Russia is outpacing the rest of east Europe. He attributed the high
interest partly to the historic competitiveness between the former
Soviet Union and the U.S.
"Americans are always anxious to see how the Russian people
live, to see how they differ," he said, noting that -- compared to
other "eastern" cities such as Prague or Budapest -- towns in
Russia seem exotic to U.S. visitors.
Not so unfamiliar anymore are costs. According to Kevra, dining
and lodging prices in major Russian cities now approach those in
"Although Moscow can be expensive, tourists who know where to go
can find more 'democratic' places," she said.
Happily, Western-style service and infrastructure improvements
are keeping pace with inflation, operators said.
Still, Krivokapic noted, "people are under the impression
Russia's cheap -- and it's not."
That said, Kompas -- which pays agents 12% commission -- held
prices on its escorted Russian tours to 2001 levels.
For example, the six-night Little Tour of Russia to Moscow,
Novgorod and St. Petersburg starts at $803 per person (double, land
only), with departures through October.
For its part, Russian National Group pays from 10% commission;
the company offers a wide range of product, including the
seven-night Imperial Russia tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg,
priced from $999 per person, land-only or $1,659 with air fare from
A trans-Siberia rail package -- with a one-way rail fare from
Moscow to Vladivostok, along with transfers and a one-night,
three-star hotel stay in the capital -- is priced from $500, in
second class; and the 14-night Golden Ring Cruise of Russian rivers
costs from $1,495 per person, land only, or $2,325 with air from
For more details or to book, contact the Russian National Group
at (877) 221-7120 or www.russia-travel.com on the Web, and Kompas Holidays
at (800) 233-6422 or www.kompas.net on line.