, JANUARY 4, 2007 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - A big group of Russian tourists who want to escape the harsh Russian winter arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) yesterday afternoon en route to a dream holiday on the world-famous Boracay resort island.

The 143 Russians arrived via a chartered Vlad Air flight from Vladivostok at around 1:50 p.m. They will stay in Manila until Friday, after which they will take an Asian Spirit flight to Caticlan for their Boracay holiday until Jan. 16.

The Russians were drawn to sunny Boracay to escape the bitter winter in their country, during which the temperature could fall to below zero degrees Centigrade.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is helping the Department of Tourism accommodate the Russian tourists and make their stay in the country trouble-free.

The group is the first of two large groups of Russians that responded to efforts by the Department of Tourism to promote Boracay. The second group composed of 260 Russians from Krasnyorasky in Siberia will arrive on Friday.

"DOT is now reaping the rewards from its participation in the Leisure Fair in Moscow in September 2006 and its selling mission to Russia early last year. This is a good start for 2007, we are hitting the ground running," Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said in a statement.

"We are determined to continue our marketing efforts with the private sector on our side. We are optimistic we can generate a bigger share of the Russian market," he added.

Vladivostok, where yesterday’s first batch of Russian arrivals came from, is the capital of the Russian Far East and the largest city with a population of 659,000.

The DOT has expressed determination to reach the Eastern side of Russia in its campaign to encourage more tourists to visit the country since it is closer to the Philippines.

The DOT said tourist arrivals from Russia has increased considerably, jumping from seventh to sixth spot in the overall European arrivals in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Cebu and Boracay were reportedly among the main destinations of Russian tourists. On average they stay in the country for 14 days and spend about $83 a day. — With Helen Flores

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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