Regular flights between Heraklion and Moscow by Hellas Jet, starting in April, will be an important step in the reinforcement of Cretan tourism by the Russian market. The company will be using Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, and plans to expand to the Thessaloniki-Moscow route in future. A second Athens-Moscow route by Aegean Airlines, starting in 2008, was announced at the same time.
Last year 80,000 Russian tourists visited Crete by charter flight to Heraklion, and this year the number is expected to go up by 10-15%. Crete is the favourite Greek destination of Russians, attracting 27% of travellers. The president of the Union of Hotel Owners, Nikiforos Lambrinos, said that regular flights between Heraklion and Moscow will help to support Cretan tourism.
Over 300,000 Russian tourists are predicted to visit Greece in 2008, rising to half a million by 2010, making this one of the major markets for present and future Greek tourism. Russia is the fastest-expanding external tourism market in Europe and the third-largest worldwide, after India and China. The most important element, however, is Russian consumerism – Russians are among the top-spending tourists internationally.