Europe

Russians told to shun 'stereotype' beach holidays abroad

Seychelles beach - file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption Few Russians can afford to have holidays in the Seychelles

Russia's tourism chief has criticised fellow Russians for flocking to foreign resorts for beach holidays - but admitted that he sold two holiday homes in the Seychelles this year.

Russians cannot buy package holidays to Egypt or Turkey now, because of the terrorism risk and sanctions on Turkey.

They have been hugely popular, sunny destinations for millions of Russians.

But tourism chief Oleg Safonov said Russia had many attractions and package holidays abroad were a "stereotype".

"The main task of [state tourism agency] Rostourism is ... to develop Russian resorts," he told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"My forefathers didn't go abroad to 'take the waters'," he said, adding that many Americans chose to holiday in the US, not only on beaches in Miami but in national parks and wilderness areas.

The interviewer challenged him on that, however, pointing out that "in our country it's cold for nine months of the year, and real winter for six months".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sharm el-Sheikh: Tourism has slumped at the Egyptian resort since a Russian jet was blown up mid-air

'No time for Seychelles'

Speaking to RIA Novosti, Mr Safonov said he saw no contradiction between recommending holidays in Russia and having had two holiday homes in the Seychelles.

"I decided to sell that property, as soon as I took up a state position," he explained. He sold them in February, he said, because state officials were not allowed to have overseas property and "in my new job I have no time for a holiday".

On Facebook earlier, Russian anti-corruption activist Lyubov Sobol accused Mr Safonov of "hypocrisy", pointing readers to his official property declaration, which includes the two Seychelles holiday homes.

He lists his annual income for 2014 as 34,904,984 roubles (£335,308; $505,390).

His declaration says he has five apartments - four of them half-owned - and two luxury cars: a Mercedes-Benz CL500 and Bentley Continental. His wife also half-owns six apartments.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny also poked fun at Mr Safonov's Seychelles revelation, contrasting a photo of a palm-fringed, paradise beach with one of a bleak, snow-bound Russian village, captioned "happy holidays, Russians".

Russia stopped its flights to Egypt after Islamic State-linked jihadists bombed a Russian airliner over Sinai in October, killing 224 people.

And Russian holiday firms cannot now sell trips to Turkey because of a row triggered by Turkey's downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber on the Syrian border.

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