Expansion follows summer success

Expansion follows summer success

Leading operators to Russia are expanding their programmes for 2000 with the emphasis on themed breaks after reporting encouraging sales this summer.

Under new managing director Des McGuinness, market leader Intourist Travel is adding cultural products in Moscow and St Petersburg, widening its cruise offer and reintroducing the Baltic states.

"Our bookings are climbing, but there's far more competition now from city-break operators, so it's important we offer something extra."

Intourist is to adapt its standard Moscow/St Petersburg package to highlight musical literature and architectural features.

The itinerary is based on three nights in each city and a night on the train that runs in between the two destinations.

Bolshoi ballet tickets will be pre-bookable for the first time and lectures will support a new range of themed literary, historical, architectural and religious tours.

A 20-night Volga River cruise between Moscow and Volgograd will be added, departing on September 9 and supplementing the popular 11-night and 14-night Moscow-St Petersburg cruises.

The Russian and Baltic Tour Company wholesale operation formerly headed by McGuinness will be absorbed by Intourist at the end of the year, prompting reintroduction of Baltic states tours.

"We're adding product and bringing back some good sellers of the past. Some tours will use Aeroflot, which with its Boeing 777s is a very different carrier from the old days," said McGuinness.

Interchange Travel has expanded its Russia programme, adding three-night breaks at Moscow's new Holiday Inn Vinogradovo, flying British Airways, from £445 until the end of March.

Burnett added:"Bookings this summer have been going well. St Petersburg is still the focus of our programme, followed by Moscow and Russian cruises. The market generally isn't refined enough to book the other cities in large numbers."

Fregata Travel, whose 2000 brochure is due out at the end of November, plans to add dedicated ballet breaks to St Petersburg and Moscow.

Product manager Jeremy Anderson said: "We currently have dedicated opera breaks to Budapest and Prague and we plan to expand our themed breaks to Russia for next year."

Three-night breaks will cost between £500 and £600, which includes flights with British Airways, accommodation, ballet tickets and a post-ballet dinner.


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