Rich Russians have been frequenting luxury European resorts such as St Tropez and Courchevel since the late 90s. But Russia's weakening economy due to Ukraine crisis is having a major impact on the tourist industry. Hayley Platt reports
It's easy to see why Portoroz in Slovenia is a tourist hotspot. Clear blue seas and over 40 kilometres of unspoilt coastline are just two of the attractions. Health spas are also a popular draw. Russian holidaymakers in particular have been going there for years. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) TOURIST FROM MOSCOW, NATALIA BAZHENOVA, SAYING: "I like the country a lot, I like the people. And I like the treatments here. There are mud baths, thermal waters. Everything's great." But Russia's weakening economy due to the conflict in Ukraine is beginning to hurt. July saw a 20 percent drop in Russian visitors compared to last year. Hotelier Janez Jager. (SOUNDBITE) (Slovenian) DIRECTOR OF LIFECLASS HOTEL GROUP, JANEZ JAGER, SAYING: "It's a result of the weakening of the ruble, and also, the Ukrainian crisis, which is getting worse at the moment." Other European resorts have also been hit. Kestrel Travel rents luxury villas for anything up to 50,000 euros a week. Wealthy Russians account for a third of their business. Much of it in the south of France, where they have more than 300 holiday homes. Kestral's founder is Rupert Stephenson. SOUNDBITE: Rupert Stephenson, Founder and Director of Kestral Travel, saying (English): "The thing about the Russians is they spend big money. They rent per month or per two months whereas say European holidaymakers rent per week or per two weeks. So one Russian client could equate to ten European clients." Albena in Bulgaria is another victim. Unfavourable currency rates are just part of the problem. (SOUNDBITE)(Bulgarian) STOYAN MARINOV, MEMBER OF RULING BOARD OF VARNA CHAMBER OF TOURISM, SAYING: "Unfortunately this year the problems in Ukraine, tensions between Russia and Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and bankruptcy of many serious Russian tour operators - all these things reflected negatively to Bulgarian tourist industry." Russian visa applications for Europe's border-free Schengen zone - are according to some reports - down by half. The French ski resort of Courchevel - another Russian favourite - has already had one bad winter. SOUNDBITE: Rupert Stephenson, Founder and Director of Kestral Travel, saying (English): "French ski resorts are very panicked about what this winter's going to bring because they've seen this summer, numbers down in San Tropez and Cap D'Antibes and Cap Ferrat where the Russians frequent in the South of France and normally the winter follows the summer." With no sign of an end to the crisis in Ukraine the tourism industry in some parts of Europe is already cutting prices. Bargains for some maybe - but longer term the industry may need to look for a new pool of holidaymakers.