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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Despite Russia's Crime Rate, Tourism Begins to Look Up

Continuing unease about Russian politics and crime have put a damper on the number of visits by Western tourists, but travel companies say the worst may be over.

Last October's near civil war, the crash of an Aeroflot flight over Siberia and a diphtheria scare all contributed to a drop in the number of tourists, particularly those on package tours, said travel operators in Moscow and abroad.

Most damaging to business, however, was the perception that Russian crime is rampant.

"I've seen articles that compare it to Chicago in the 1920s. That doesn't help when you are trying to send people" to Russia, said Ana Baille, marketing manager of Intourist Travel Ltd. in London.

"But the leisure market has already picked up. People have very short memories," said Baille, whose firm sent about 25,000 vacationers and businesspeople to Russia last year. "With the queen's visit, we have already had an increase in bookings for early next year."

In the first six months of this year, Baille estimates the package-tour trade dropped by about 30 percent but started to rebound in June.

At Hotel Kosmos, where 60 percent of the 3,500 rooms are occupied by package tours during the May-to-September high season, 1994 booking levels have been consistent with the previous year, said Natalya Maslova, who manages the hotel's front office.

The Metropol Hotel, too, reports stable tourist figures.

"Our hotel is an expensive hotel and our customers are not taking part in tourist groups," said Roman Tutushkin, a spokesman at the Metropol, where a single room has a starting price of $330 a night. "It is small groups of rich persons and so it is more stable." At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Travellers' Guest House, where a bed in a dormitory room costs $15 and a single is $30. Co-owner Jan Passoff said the 1994 season has been disappointing so far.

"It was a real shock," said Passoff. "Actually September was slower than last year by about 20 percent."