RUSSIA. A strong first quarter lift in Russian outbound travel is expected to continue over the next 12 months with a projected +9.2% rise in international air travel. That’s according to travel retail research agency m1nd-set.

M1nd-set’s Business 1ntelligence Service (B1S) indicates a year-on-year increase to the end of Q1 2018 of just under +13% (based on IATA traffic data). The agency says that a recent analysis of Russian shoppers and travellers also shows that “retail spend is on the rise again”.

European destinations are by far the biggest market for Russians with a 74.2% share, or eight million travellers. They will be the main benefactors of the rising tourist tide, up +11%. Among the top 20 country markets the best growth of Russian arrivals in the coming 12 months will be the Netherlands (+68%), Italy (+59%), Spain (+18%) and Cyprus (+18%).

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However, not all markets will find favour. Ukraine is set for a -24% fall in Russian visitors and the UK will be down -2% versus the past 12 months. Both countries have been embroiled in high-profile diplomatic and political quarrels with Russia. Greece and Austria are also projected to be down: -21% and -11% respectively.

Other world regions will see mixed fortunes. Asia, with a 13.3% share of Russian traffic, will see a marginal recovery at +1.5%; the Middle East (7.4% share) will be up +5.1%; while North America (3% share) is expected to be down by -22.9%.

Variable airport shopping behaviour

The m1nd-set study also looked at Russians’ shopping behaviour – both at home and away. When shopping in airports, they have clear preferences for core categories like alcohol, perfumes and confectionery. Their preference for these three categories varies between Russian airport shops and those overseas.

For example, over 60% of Russian travellers say they purchase alcohol at Russian airports and just under half purchase perfumes, while confectionery is purchased by less than 20%. However, when overseas, confectionery jumps to first place with 45% of Russian travellers saying they purchase confectionery abroad, while alcohol and perfumes are purchased by 46% and 32% of Russian travellers respectively.

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The average spend is also over +30% higher in airports overseas than at home, with alcohol and perfumes claiming the largest share of Russian travellers’ wallets in both locations. By individual category, electronics claims the highest spend in overseas airport shops, while Russians spend more on jewellery and watches in domestic gateways.

Purchase drivers also vary at home and away

Pricing and value is the key purchase driver for Russians at their home airports, followed by the instore experience and gifting. In airports overseas, gifting and exclusive or unique products are the top two purchase drivers.

B1S Head Pablo Saez Gil said: “Our research reveals that Russians are very partial to purchasing new and innovative products and are constantly on the look-out for them whether in duty free, domestic or online. Russians tend to notice new products far more than the average global shopper.

“Family values are also very important and Russians tend to purchase more for family members, compared to shoppers globally. They find shopping more tedious than the global average, so the importance of the instore experience is particularly high.”

As for rising online spending, Russians are increasingly favouring Chinese e-commerce platforms over domestic sites. Non-Russian e-commerce sites now account for 25% of Russian online spending for physical goods.