Saudi Arabia targets Russian tourists in new deal with Yandex

Saudi Arabia targets Russian tourists in new deal with Yandex
Saudi wants a slice of the beaten-down Russian tourist market as it partners with Yandex Travel. / CC: Tyrrel Burns
By bne IntelliNews March 7, 2024

Saudi Tourism Authority has partnered with Yandex Travel, a prominent Russian online travel agency and aggregator, to capture the outbound Russian tourist market, the company announced on March 6.

This collaboration aims to position Saudi Arabia as a prime destination for leisure travel and target Russian tourists who would typically visit countries like Turkey and Cyprus. Saudi Arabia is attempting to shake off its hostile image with billions of dollars in investment in multiple types of tourism infrastructure.

Yandex Travel, a globally recognised Yandex brand component, has seen rapid expansion since the withdrawal of Western competitors like, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor, and is currently estimated to be worth nearly $8bn. The company's digital-first ventures extend across over 30 countries.

The campaign, spearheaded by Alaa Alosaimi, the PR & media manager, and Ziyad Binjadid, the consumer marketing executive director, and the in-house creative and production team from Yandex Travel, created an interactive map.

This map, hosted on the Yandex Travel website, showcases the diverse attractions Saudi Arabia offers beyond its recognition as the home of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Other regional countries have attempted to tap into the captured Russian tourist market since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, which saw EU states ban Russian tours.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has historically been the haunt for Russians looking for warmer climes in the region, with cities like Dubai with its glitz and glamour

Iran, has attempted to push its historical sites with Russian tourists, but has struggled with stringent Islamic covering and dry country status.

However, despite the obstacles, so far in 2024, interest in visiting Iran has surged with Russians, with bookings for January-February up by 30% from the previous year.

The uptick in interest towards Iran is attributed to lower prices for tour packages and a broader range of offerings. Despite the noticeable growth, experts caution that the overall interest among Russians is not yet widespread.