People, Travel

Russians Told to Forego Beach vacations

Russians Told to Forego Beach vacationsRussians Told to Forego Beach vacations

Russia’s tourism chief got himself into hot water on Monday by claiming there is no need for Russians to go abroad on beach holidays, after Moscow severed air ties with Egypt and warned against travel to Turkey.

In an interview with government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the head of Russia’s tourism agency Oleg Safonov said that “the need for beaches and the sea is very much a stereotype of recent years, which we already accept as our own opinion.”

“Our forefathers, even the wealthy, did not go en masse to foreign seas,” he said.

Safonov — who last year declared he owned two houses on the Seychelles — was responding to a question from an interviewer who said many Russians felt they had been “deprived of the opportunity to have a real holiday in warm parts,” AFP reported.

Officials led by President Vladimir Putin have warned Russians against traveling to Turkey and insisted the country was no safer than Egypt, where a Russian charter plane flying from the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg was downed by a bomb in October, killing all 224 people on board.

Safonov’s comments irritated many, particularly as his opponents pointed out he last year declared ownership of property in the tropics.

On Monday, the word “Seychelles” in Russian became one of the top Twitter trends, and even state news agency RIA Novosti came up with an ironic headline: “A villa in the Seychelles didn’t stop tourism chief Safonov from loving his motherland.”

Safonov recommended that holidaymakers head to Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea instead of going abroad, suggesting it should develop “all-inclusive” tourism.

“It would be right if a significant part of the money Russian tourists spend on holiday stayed in Russia and worked to benefit our economy and not that of another country,” he said.

But the temperatures there are hardly tropical, at 14 degrees Celsius in the resort city of Yalta on Monday afternoon.