Russia is an important market for Vietnamese tourism and has high expectations, said Vu The Binh, Chairman of the Vietnam Travel Association.

Over the past five years, tourists from Russia have always been among the leading groups of foreign visitors with the highest growth of 20-30 percent, according to statistics supplied by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

However, the number of Russian tourists was still low in 2010 with about 100,000 visitors due to the geographic distance and a lack of promotions.

Tourists from Russia like the coastal resorts and luxurious relaxing tourist destinations. On average they also stay longer and spend more, around 1,600-1,700 USD, an annual increase of 50-80 percent, according to estimates from Vietnam ’s travel agencies.

They are also interested in local products such as clothes, footwear, embroidery work, gemstones, handicrafts and silk.

Bui Nguyen Tam Dang, Director of Vietravel’s overseas market group, said that Russia has always been considered a market with huge potential. In 2010, the number of Russian tourists welcomed by Vietravel rose by 20 percent against the previous years figure.

In Vietnam , Phan Thiet and Nha Trang in the central coastal provinces of Binh Thuan and Khanh Hoa, are the leading destinations in terms of attracting Russian tourists, said Dang.

Russia ’s airline Vladivostok Air opened a direct route to Cam Ranh in Khanh Hoa province in late 2010 and could increase the number of Russian visitors to the central coastal province by 50 percent in 2011, Dang estimated.

Travel agencies operating in the Russian market say that Winter time is the high season for Russian travellers. Their counterparts in Russia have also promoted tours to Southeast Asian nations like Thailand , Indonesia and Vietnam , instead of Egypt due to unstable political situation.

To make the most of the opportunity, Vietravel says it is working with service providers, especially hotels and resorts in Phan Thiet and Nha Trang to attract more visitors from this promising market.

Localities with the potential for maritime tourism like Da Nang City and Quang Nam province in central Vietnam , are looking at ways of attracting more Russian tourists.

Tran Chi Cuong, Head of the Da Nang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Travel Management Division, said that along with the continued investment in coastal tourist sites, the city will focus on promotions in Russia in the future.

Vietnam’s tourism industry will attend the MITT international tourism fair in March in Russia, and is creating a project to develop key markets, including Russia./.