From Russia with love

John Wagner George Sell Uploaded

Held in the wonderfully atmospheric cellars of the Stafford Kempinski in London's St James', guests were surrounded by a million pounds worth of fine wine as they heard insights from Tracy Ramsey, director of sales at The Goring; Tim Sander, director of Hotel Research at BDRC Continental; and Al Gosling, CEO of The Extreme Sports Company.

Tim Sander kicked off with some very revealing statistics from BDRC's research. Describing Russian travellers as "very different from their western European counterparts", he said they are:
• not particularly driven by hotel brand names, partly due to the undersupply of hotel inventory in Russia
• considerably younger than western European travellers, with an average age of 33 rather than 45
• embracing mobile booking - up to 20 per cent have booked a hotel room via a mobile device in the last 12 months
• very active on social media, with Facebook, Youtube and Twitter the most popular
• keen users of review sites, with three in five using them as opposed to two in five in the UK
• not inclined to use OTAs but will often book directly through a hotel's website
• frequent users of destination tourist board websites - this applies especially to business travellers

Tracey Ramsey said that Russian guests are among the top 10 nationalities in terms of numbers who stay at the Goring - they tend to book higher room categories than other nationalities and stay for an average of three to five nights. The Goring's bookings tend to come from Russian travel agents, and Tracey recommended that hoteliers get involved with Visit Britain's missions to Moscow and St Petersburg where they can engage the key agents.

Al Gosling, whose company is building a hotel in Sochi - the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics - said that the Russian market represents a great opportunity for independent hotels, as Russian guests are more concerned with the experience a hotel can deliver rather than its brand.

All the speakers were in agreement that the difficulty Russian visitors have in obtaining UK visas is the major obstacle for increasing the level of inbound traffic from Russia. Al Gosling pointed out that any hotel that can provide as much helpful information for Russian guests on their website to help then negotiate the visa process is giving itself a headstart.

In contrast with the expectations of Chinese guests, which were debated at a previous Boutique Hotel News event, it was agreed that Russians did not need any particular elements such as local F&B offerings, but that a Russian speaking member of staff is a plus. The consensus is that Russian guest is particularly demanding and expect an extremely high level of service. With the hospitality industry lobbying the government hard to resolve the visa issue, and developments such as the recently introduced EasyJet route between Manchester and Moscow, now is a good time for boutique hotels to look at this intriguing market.


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