Ozon.Travel, a specialized arm of leading Russian e-commerce player Ozon.ru, announced last Monday a twentyfold increase of its annual gross booking sales, from 44 million rubles in 2009, the year of launch, to 898 million rubles in 2010 ($1.47 million and $29.9 million, respectively).

According to the company, online shoppers from Moscow and St. Petersburg accounted for 46.9% of all visitors with the rest coming from other Russian cities and foreign countries. The customer database has grown to include more than 100,000 registered users, with 50% of them having placed at least one order in the past year.

In early 2011, the site recorded as many as 25,000 visits and 1,049 accepted orders per day.

A booming market segment

Russia’s offline tourism market witnessed spectacular growth in the decade preceding the 2008 crisis. This growth has now resumed and is expected to continue in the coming years. With approximately 11 million travelers in 2009, according to official statistics, outbound tourism is the most dynamic segment of the market.

For the last few years, online sales of touristic products have grown even faster. Russia saw an estimated 6 million online purchasers of touristic products in 2010. Four million air tickets were sold online in 2009, a threefold increase from previous years. The potential remains huge: less than 5% of travel services are sold online in Russia vs. 30% to 60% in more advanced countries.

On the supply side, the two last years saw strong diversification of online booking possibilities with initiatives from Russian tour operators, online aggregators, airlines and hotels. Alternative online sales models, inspired by western private sales sites, have also appeared, such as HipClub.ru and Ostrovok.ru, which were launched in 2010.

Foreign online aggregators such as Amargo and Momondo, as well as foreign funds such as Tiger Management and Ventech (which have invested in Anywayanyday.ru and Oktogo.ru, respectively) made their first steps on the Russian market in the same period.

Significant online plans are also expected of international tour operators in the near future.