The move by Thomas Cook and TUI Travel into the Russian market has prompted concern from agents over a “culture clash” in resorts.
Thomas Cook is believed to be on the brink of buying Intourist, one of the largest operators and travel agencies in Russia. A Thomas Cook spokeswoman refused to comment on the buyout, but said: “Russia is a market we are interested in and discussions are underway.”
TUI Travel also has extensive growth plans in the country. TUI Russia and CIS joint venture is about to buy 75% of Mostravel, a specialist tour operator to Egypt, Turkey and Greece. TUI also has around 150 retail agencies there.
Last year, the joint venture bought a 75% stake in assets of VKO, an operator and agency group based in Russia, and a 75% stake in assets of Voyage Kiev, an operator and agency group in Ukraine. Both operators have spoken of the potential of the Russian market, which has a growing middle class with a high disposable income.
However, agents said hotels used by the Russian and UK markets must make sure they cater for both nationalities. Travel Designers owner Nicholas McKay said he had complaints from customers about a ‘clash of cultures’. “Russian people can be quite different and some customers have had problems. Operators must make sure their contracts with the hotels state that things such as kids’ clubs and menus will be in English.”
Enjoy Holidays manager Michelle Mckay said: “I get complaints all the time, especially when people have been to Egypt and Turkey. I don’t think it would stop people booking those places though as that’s where the good prices are.”
A TUI spokeswoman said it would provide “exclusive and differentiated product” for the Russian market. She added: “The majority of customers staying in international accommodation expect there to be a mix of nationalities.”
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