Singapore seeing more Russian tourists

Ms Valeria Karpovich from Russia was here last month and liked the clean streets and architecture. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF VALERIA KARPOVICH
Ms Valeria Karpovich from Russia was here last month and liked the clean streets and architecture. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF VALERIA KARPOVICH
Russian Rinat Valiev being served by retail manager Andy Singh as he shops at the Uomo Collezioni store at Marina Bay Sands. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Russian Rinat Valiev being served by retail manager Andy Singh as he shops at the Uomo Collezioni store at Marina Bay Sands. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

More visiting S'pore for vacations and they tend to splurge on luxury items

More Russians are choosing Singapore as a vacation destination, and those who come tend to splurge on high-end accommodation and luxury goods.

Figures from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) show that between January and August this year, almost 63,500 people from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes several countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, had visited Singapore. That was a 20 per cent year-on-year increase.

The Straits Times understands that most of these visitors were from Russia and, in particular, the capital city of Moscow.

Last year, the average Russian visitor was 36 years old, stayed here for four days and spent $1,456, making this group one of the highest spenders among all visitors here.

"Singapore has always been part of the Asian itinerary for Russians who are increasingly interested in the region," said STB's area director for Russia and Eastern Europe, Mr Raymond Lim. Their visits here are usually paired with trips to places in the region, such as Thailand or Malaysia.

The Russians tend to be repeat visitors, according to travel agency Global Singapore, which helps 20 per cent of all CIS visitors to Singapore apply for visas.

The agency's managing director, Ms Oksana Scott, said an increasing number also come here for medical services such as dental or cosmetic surgery.

The number of Russian visitors typically rises further from now until March, when they escape the harsh winter at home by travelling to South-east Asia. Russians also enjoy a nearly two-week-long New Year break, which allows many to take vacations farther from home.

For those who come to Singapore, they like to travel in style and prefer high-end hotels.

The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, for instance, has seen a 67 per cent jump in Russian guests over the past year.

They spend on hotel suites, dining and alcohol, as well as luxury services such as spa treatments, butler-drawn baths and limousine transfers, said Ms Nathalyn Fong, the hotel's director of public relations and marketing communications.

The rising number of Russian visitors has prompted hotels here to offer services that would make their guests feel more at home.

Four Seasons Hotel in Orchard, for example, has Russian-speaking employees, while Marina Mandarin recently introduced Russian vodkas at its lounge.

Russian visitors are also fans of luxury shopping. Italian luxury menswear company Uomo Group, which has six boutiques at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, said the Russians are willing to spend on quality goods and good service.

"They are carefree spenders and will buy whatever looks nice on them and fits well," said its chief executive, Mr Johnny Manglani. All the directors at the group speak Russian and are trained in customer service in Moscow, Mr Manglani added.

Ms Ksenya Smirnova, who is from St Petersburg, visited Singapore for her honeymoon last February. She said it was Singapore's reputation as a "country of the future, with modern architecture and no garbage" that drew her here. She was here for three days after visiting Malaysia, and stayed at Marina Bay Sands hotel.

"It is a really modern country. I can imagine myself living there," said the 26-year-old housewife. "Will I visit Singapore again? Yes, why not? Three days are not enough to explore Singapore."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg