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Christmas Market Destinations: When and How You Can Attract Russian Tourists for Holidays

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Russian tourists traditionally prefer spending Christmas holidays in European countries, though choosing warmer destination for New Year holidays. When choosing a Christmas tour, the biggest problems are likely caused by the dates of these travels since the Christmas in Europe does not coincide with the beginning of public holidays in Russia.

Frustratingly for our fellow nationals, many Christmas fairs often finish their work already on Christmas Eve (December 24); though in large cities the holiday atmosphere is maintained until January 6.

However, the demand for both Christmas and New Year tours among Russians holds steady.

In our article, we will look at not only destinations that Russian tourists choose for Christmas and New Year holidays, but also peculiarities of promotion of such tours. We have previously told you how to make a marketing plan and improve your strategy when promoting a travel destination in the Russian market.

Best European Christmas Markets: Choice by Russian Tourists

The fairytale of Christmas that can only be seen in European cities has always attracted Russian tourists. To get inside, they change their vacation dates, combine several programs, and learn fair working dates. The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) polled tour operators and made a list of 5 most popular Christmas destinations in Europe.

Strasbourg — motherland of Christmas markets

A Christmas trip to France is one of the most beautiful trips to be taken in the wintertime. This year, France has become one of the most expensive destinations for Russian tourists, while an average cost of a Christmas trip, according to Sletat.ru, has increased by almost 40%.

Nevertheless, according to experts, this destination is very popular among Russian tourists who often go to Paris while passing through Disneyland, as well as to Alsace where they definitely visit Strasbourg.

In all over the world, Strasbourg is believed to be the Christmas capital because the Christmas market has already been arranged there for almost 450 years. The first fair, Christkindelsmärik, took place in 1570, and since then the whole downtown regularly turns into one big area for festivities and buying local delicacies and souvenirs.

Fair working time: November 23—December 30, 2018.

Holiday month in Valencia

This year, Spain has become the second most popular country among Russian tourists during Christmas. Our fellow nationals traditionally choose it for its festive mood, warm weather by our standards, and good cuisine.

As a rule, Spain hosts at least 8 famous Christmas fairs in different parts of the country so that a tourist is free to choose whether he or she should go to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, Malaga, Valencia, Zaragoza, or Cordoba.

The fair that took place from December 1, 2018 until January 6, 2019 was accompanied by the beef festival on December 4-9 and Killerland circus show on December 11-16, 2018. Besides, as part of the program, Valencia hosted the Gastro Market festival on December 18-23, 2018, and on January 2-6, 2019 there was a Market of Kings, where festive decorations, accessories, toys and many other goods were sold.

Fair working time: December 1, 2018—January 6, 2019 (December 24 – short day; January 6 – working till 5 a.m.).

Christmas fair in Bolzano

The interest of Russian travelers to Italy is kept for the whole year, and the Christmas time is not an exception. Russian tourists book both classic city tour in Rome and Milan and excursions in museum cities during the whole winter.

Although tourists are happy to visit all Christmas fairs in Italy, the most unusual one takes place in Bolzano, South Tirol. It was held in that city for the first time more than 30 years ago and is considered the biggest country fair since then.

Fair working time: November 22, 2018—January 6, 2019.

Christmas in Hungary

No single Christmas in Hungary goes without Russian tourists. They go to Budapest where on the Vörösmarty Square there is the oldest, richest, and brightest Christmas fair of the city.

First of all, they come to the fair for fine foods such as local sausages, grilled vegetables, peasant ravioli of mashed potatoes and flour, fried dough named lángos, and, of course, kürtőskalács.

For those who cannot eat any more, there are handmade souvenirs, night walks along Donau, and, of course, visitation of the famous Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, the largest one in Europe. Besides, the city regularly hosts free street concerts, and in the evening, there is a real laser show near the building of Café Gerbeaud, the oldest one in Budapest.

Fair working time: November 9, 2018—January 1, 2019.

Prague: Destination No. 1

In 2018, the Czech Republic broke all records with regards to queries of Russian tourists during the European Christmas time. According to Sletat.ru, the demand for it grew more than twice, compared to the same period of the last year, being equal to 14.79% queries and 2018 and 6.81% ones in 2017.

Moreover, the Czech Republic is the second most popular country where Russians actually go in the wintertime. So, Thailand takes nearly 22.59% sales in 2018, the Czech Republic 15.48%, and China 12.97%. The popularity of the Czech Republic is noted by all experts who emphasize that Prague in on top of demand for Europe in the winter season.

The most surprising thing is that within this time, the whole city turns into one continuous Christmas market, so, when going from a famous market on the Old Town Square to one on the Wenceslas Square in 5 minutes, one should not stop there. The most bizarre souvenirs can be bought in small fairs on the Náměstí Republiky, in the market of the Kampa Island, and near the St. George's Basilica in the Prague Castle.

Fairs working time: December 1, 2018—January 6, 2019.

In general, experts note that the demand for European Christmas is quite corresponding to the previous season, and there are no dramatic bursts or falls.

Top-5 Christmas and New Year Holidays in 2018/2019

According to the data from tour operators published by ATOR, sales of 2019 New Year and holiday season tours remained on the last year level. More and more Russians give their preferences to vacations in the summertime for which they save money, and that can also be at the expense of giving up New Year holiday trips.

In the winter season of 2018-2019, there are several key demand trends.

  • More and more tourists from Russia preferred warm countries (as opposed to Christmas holidays where the main flow goes to Europe), which stimulates growth of sales of long-range destination tours. So, according to the Biblio Globus operator, the demand for tours to Thailand on New Year dates grew by 21%, as compared to last year, and by 12% to India. The important factor of the growing demand for a number of long-range ‘chartered’ destinations is no required visa.

In this context, as experts note, there is a fall in the share of sales of mountain skiing and excursion tours to Western and Central Europe: a need to arrange a visa along with pricy leisure activities cuts the demand for this destination and makes tourists lower their standards and look for more affordable trip options (shorten a tour length or lower their sights on the hotel standard).

The New Yew demand for the mass skiing segment in European destinations becomes more and more shifted in favor of three countries:

- Andorra,

- Bulgaria,

- Italy.

  • One more curious tendency is conscious buying of New Year tours in advance to save money. The booking pattern for New Year dates has grown by 1-2 months among a number of leading companies, as compared to previous seasons.

According to aggregate data of tour operators, 2018-2019 New Year sale leaders among Russian tourists were Thailand, Russia, UAE, Turkey, and Europe. Top 10 also includes the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and India.

*According to sales of tour operators as of November 2018

Tips for Christmas and New Year Holiday Marketing

1. Start as early as possible. Russians begin buying Christmas and New Year holiday tours as early as in September. Plan your advertising activities so that they could start no later than in September and even before when a final decision on where to go for Christmas is not made yet.

2. Vitalize social media promotion. Contests, special projects, placement with opinion leaders, partner placement, and targeted ads—use all possible tools, techniques, and formats of promotion for a wider coverage.

3. Offer Christmas tours with extra activities. As European Christmas holidays do not match Russian ones, the best idea is to not only include Christmas fairs into tours, but also expand an offer with other activities: mountain skiing, SPA, cruises etc.

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About the Author

Digital marketing manager, editor-in-chief of the RMAA Group Blog

Author Yulia Vasilyeva
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