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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Holiday Travelers Drive Sales of Package Tours

As usual, the overwhelming majority of Russians will toast the arrival of the new year at home with family. But once they sober up, an increasing number will be traveling -- both at home and abroad -- to take advantage of the long New Year's holiday.

Some travel agents are reporting a surge in sales of up to 30 percent compared with last year's holiday season. For the second year in a row, Russians will enjoy an uninterrupted vacation of almost 10 days.

While official statistics on winter travel have yet to be calculated, travel agencies are seeing the price of some holiday packages double, and even triple, on soaring demand.

"Bookings for the winter holidays began in September this year, and in October we were already straining to meet demand," said Irina Solyankina, who is responsible for domestic destinations at Vand International Tour.

The most popular Russian package tours are along the Golden Ring outside Moscow, with prices ranging from less than 10,000 rubles ($344) to 50,000 rubles per person, Solyankina said. St. Petersburg and Karelia are also selling fast.

Popular Soviet-era summer destinations -- such as Sochi and Anapa on the Black Sea -- are also winning over winter travelers, said Yelena Voyevodina, deputy general director of agency Roza Vetrov. Demand for these locations would be even higher if the price of air tickets, which start at $300, could compete with cheap charter flights to Turkey or Egypt, she said.

Ski lovers are heading to Switzerland, Austria, France -- and Bulgaria, which is gaining popularity as a bargain destination. Warmer climes, like Thailand, Egypt and Turkey, are also selling briskly, said Vladimir Kaganer, general director of Tez Tour.

"When we had closed sales for a Jan. 2 flight to Turkey, we organized another charter flight on Jan. 1, and it was gone in four days," he said.

As incomes rise, Latin America is also beginning to win over more Russians.

"It feels like everybody is going to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Sales have gone up 30 percent on average, and Dominican sales doubled this season," said Yelena Konkina of International Travel Club, which specializes in package tours to Latin American and the Caribbean.

"Exclusive and exotic destinations are becoming more mass-oriented," she said. "Those who could once afford Egypt and Bali are now coming to us."