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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Aeroflot Agency Targets Tourists

Aeroflot on Monday unveiled its own tourist agency and announced its intention to corner one third of the Russian tourism market.

The birth of the new agency, Mir Aeroflota, is the latest in a string of moves the company has made since it adopted an aggressive development strategy last spring.

Registered late last year by Aeroflot subsidiaries Sherotel and non-commercial training company Aviabusiness, the agency has a charter capital of 15 million rubles ($525,000) and is being managed by former banking heavyweights.

Mir Aeroflota general director Andrei Kozlov is a former first deputy chairman of the Central Bank. And board chairman Alexander Zurabov, who doubles as Aeroflot's deputy general director, is a former Russky Standart Bank executive.

The company has targeted Turkey as its first project and hopes to handle 25 percent of the tourist business from Russia by the end of the year.

Aeroflot was adamant that the new agency would not receive better treatment than the 300 agents it works with.

"For a company with such a name it will be easier to attract clients and partners than it is for smaller companies," said Zurabov adviser Larisa Solodukhina.

Solodukhina said that winning new business is a matter of providing the quality and customer care that are expected in the West.

Mir Aeroflota will focus on special- interest travel such as golf or scuba vacations, for which it will offer travel loans through Russky Standart Bank.

Mir Aeroflota will also have the support of Aeroflot's own network of 139 representative offices across the world.

The company has already secured a partnership deal with major German operator TUI Group and is negotiating with other major global tourism agencies.

Even before its first clients have taken off, the agency is confident it can break even by the end of this year, Solodukhina said.

Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman for the Russian Association of Tourist Agencies, said it was yet early to comment on the new agency's ambitions. "Such declarations have been voiced by other companies before," she said.

"The market will put everything in place."