Holiday tourists stranded as Russian firms go bust
Andy Cornish: September 2014
Two more Russian tour operators go bust leaving holidaymakers hoping to find flights home.
The surge in Russian tourists to the Greek Islands has suffered a further setback as two more holiday companies go bust leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded.
Earlier this week St. Petersburg-based Solvex Tour folded, leaving around 9,000 of its holiday customers stranded abroad, a third of them in Bulgaria and Greece.
Now more than 4,000 Russian holidaymakers booked through Yuzny Krest Travel, most of them in Greece and the Greek Islands, have been left high and dry after the company declared itself bankrupt.
The Yuzny Krest Group, founded in 1998, is one of the top ten travel agencies in Russia and the collapse takes the total number of Russian travel agents going under this year to 13.
As well as those currently on holiday, around 20,000 more are thought to have booked travel deals with Yuzny Krest Travel. The agency blamed the wind-up decision on a dramatic decline in the demand.
Russian holidays in Greece have been badly hit this year by the Ukrainian crisis and the troubled stand-off between Russia and much of the Western world over its involvement with separatist movements in the region.
US and EU sanctions have hit the Russian economy while the rouble currency has dipped sharply.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) warned of the danger of further Russian tour operator bankruptcies that could threaten the Greek tourism market,
It is a bit of a turnaround for Greek's booming market in overseas visitors from Russia. Last year saw a dramatic rise in Russian tourists in the Greek Island as numbers jumped a huge 56% to around 1.3 million.
It placed Russia in third place for Greek Island holiday visitors, behind the 2.1 million tourists from Germany and 1.9 million from the UK and gave Russia a 7.5% holiday market share.
Hopes were high for another rise in Russian holiday visitors this year helping Greece to push for a new record in annual tourists arrivals to beat last year's record 17.9 million sunseekers.
A new record is still within Greece's grasp but the latest setbacks will put a large dent in this year's figures while continued problems in Eastern Europe and the effect of the Russian economy could take it's toll.
The Greek tourism organisation SETE has expressed hopes that the Ukrainian crisis will be settled sooner rather than later and trigger better European relations with Russia.
The growing Russian share of the Greek tourism market was expected to result in around 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2021, according to expert forecasts.
That now seems very much in doubt as Russian travel agents feel the brunt of sanctions and the devaluation of the rouble. Last month saw two major Russian travel agents bite the dust.
Russian tour operator Intaer which announced suspension of all holiday operations just weeks after one of the country's biggest holiday tour operators Labirint filed for bankruptcy leaving thousands of holidaymakers to make their own way home.