Abkhazia is the most popular destination for Russians

Latest official outbound tourist figures answer questions on where Russians travel.

The number of international outbound trips by Russian tourists in the first half of 2016 was 13.2 million, a decrease of 13.1% in 2015, according to state statistics office Rosstat.

The most popular Russian destination for tourism is Abkhazia, once known as a prime holiday destination for the Soviet elite. It is a partially recognised state on the Eastern coast of the Black Sea and the South-Western flank of the Caucasus, South of Russia and North-West of Georgia. It became independent from Georgia in 2008 and is recognised by Russia, but not by Georgia.

Turkey and Egypt are the countries that have lost most Russian tourists. In 2015, Turkey was the second most popular destination for Russians with 1.36 million visits. This year the country has fallen to 22nd position with 168,000 tourists (87.7% decrease). Egypt welcomed 1.26 million Russians in 2015, numbers have fallen so low in 2016 that Rosstat cannot offer figures. Other countries that have experienced a decrease in Russian tourists inflow are Finland (-17%), Kazakhstan (-11.5%), Poland (-10.6%), Germany (-10.5%) and Israel (-10.2%).

While it does not show where Russians go for medical tourism, it does suggest problems for Turkey, Israel, Germany and Egypt, all once key medical tourism destinations for Russians. Opinions differ as to whether Russians are simply staying at home for treatment, mainly going to CIS countries, or have found new popular destinations. Local opinion is that it is a combination of the first two explanations and most countries expecting an influx of Russian medical tourists have suffered badly.

Countries that have experienced a significant increase include Cyprus (+50%), China (+45%), Thailand (+24.2%), Bulgaria (+23.8%), Greece (+22.1%) and Abkhazia and Georgia (both 21.2%). Spain registered an increase of 14.6%; part of this increase is a result of the stagnation of outflow to Egypt and Turkey.

The main beneficiary of the situation in Egypt and Turkey is Tunisia. In the first half of 2015, 27,800 Russian tourists visited the small African country. This year Tunisia registered 186,000 Russian visits, an increase of almost 700%. All of this despite the fact that in 2015 the outflow to Tunisia decreased by 72% due to terrorist attacks.

The top 10 most popular destinations among Russians are: Abkhazia (1.5 million), Finland (1.26 million), Kazakhstan (1.25 million), Ukraine (816,000), China (712,000), Estonia (698,000), Poland (581,000), Germany (468,000), Thailand (441,000), and Spain (321,000).

Then follows Cyprus (314,000), Italy (313,000), Lithuania (303,000), Georgia (298,000), Azerbaijan (267,000), Greece (260,000), UAE (240,000), Tunisia (186,000), Bulgaria (182,000) and France (180,000).Turkey and Egypt are not in the top 20.