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Russia

Currently, anyone living in the Russian far east and wanting to fly to the US has to travel three-quarters of the way round the world, across Eurasia and the Atlantic. But a Russian airline is planning to launch the first trans-Pacific route linking Russia and the States this summer.

The route will link Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the regional capital of Russia’s far-eastern peninsula of Kamchatka, with Anchorage in Alaska. An airline spokesman says the flight will take less than four hours. The airline is still in the process of working out the fares, but ­industry insiders estimate a return trip will cost in excess of €1,000. Still, the cheapest tickets between the two cities currently available on Russian travel websites run to twice that amount and involve three changes and 30 hours of flying time.

Vladivostok Avia hopes to link into connecting flights at both ends of the route to make it a success. The flight will provide a convenient route to the US for people across its network of eastern Russian and Chinese cities. It also hopes to attract US adventure tourists to the wild and volcanic peninsula of Kamchatka.

Occasional charter flights operate ­between Nome in Alaska and Anadyr, the capital of the remote Chukotka region, where oligarch Roman Abramovich is governor, but the route is not commercially viable. Likewise, flights had been planned to Anchorage from Magadan, ­another far eastern Russian city, but never happened (also see Sakhalin, page 48).

Meanwhile, for the majority of foreign travellers who will continue to enter Russia through Moscow, things are also about to get better. The city’s Sheremetyevo Airport, the largest in Russia, has always been a nightmare to reach. Linked to the centre of town by a road infamous for bad traffic, the journey can take three hours. Soon, passengers will have an ­alternative to long, overpriced taxi rides: a rail link to the city centre will open in 2008 and is expected to cut the journey time to just 35 minutes.

Consuming passions

Saudi Arabia

Dubai and Abu Dhabi might be hogging the limelight on the Arabian peninsula these days, but if you run a consumer goods business the more promising market is Saudi Arabia, where 27.5 million relatively well-off customers beckon. The problem is that, until recently, market researchers have found the secretive kingdom hard to crack.

That’s changing. Credit the coming of age of 1970s baby-boomers, a generation “weaned on marketing” according to Steve Hamilton-Clark, managing director of market research company TNS Middle East and Africa. The kingdom’s conservative mores still create some obstacles – it’s taboo to ask about certain products, such as feminine hygiene pads. But with around 75 per cent of the Saudi population under 30, researchers no longer meet a stone wall when asking touchy questions.

To tap into this, ad agency BBDO’s annual global study of the daily habits of consumers, “The Ritual Masters”, went to Saudi Arabia for the first time last year (see right). And with a Unilever-backed plan to track Saudi TV viewing habits by the minute, expect further insights in 2008.

New big spenders: what BBDO found

01 Saudi females are incredibly tech-savvy – 50 per cent stay at home and rely on mobile phones and the internet.
02 Among the 20 per cent of Saudi men who shave at home, Gillette is by far the market leader.
03 Chanel, Dior and Mikyajy are all popular in the fashion market, but, surprisingly, one brand stands out from the pack: The Body Shop.
04 For women who stay at home, Nescafé has become a synonym for coffee.
05 Among Saudi youth, Puma jumps out as the leader in the fashion category.

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