Russian tourism chief accused of hypocrisy after telling Russians not to vacation abroad

The head of Russia’s tourism Oleg Safonov says he's now sold his properties in the Seychelles.

The head of Russia’s tourism Oleg Safonov says he's now sold his properties in the Seychelles.  (Reuters)

Russia's tourism chief has been accused of hypocrisy after telling Russians they should not travel abroad on beach vacations, while he himself owned two houses in the Seychelles, The Guardian reports.

“The need for beaches and the sea is very much a stereotype of recent years, which we already accept as our own opinion,” Oleg Safonov, the head of Russia's tourism agency, told Russian media, The Guardian adds. “Our forefathers, even the wealthy, did not go en masse to foreign seas.”

He instead suggested citizens vacation in Russian-annexed Crimea to promote Russia’s economy.

“It would be right if a significant part of the money Russian tourists spend on holiday stayed in Russia and worked to benefit our economy and not that of another country,” Sofanov told state media, The Guardian reports.

Sufanov’s statements follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning to Russians against the perils of travel to Turkey after Turkey downed a Russian jet over Syria’s border last month.

Moscow has also cut ties with Egypt, where a Russian plane flying from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh was downed by a bomb in October, killing all 224 people on board. Authorities have said the crash could be terror-related.

Safonov’s comments have come under scrutiny from political opponents who point to his beach-front properties in the tropics.

“From his house in the Seychelles, Safonov advises Russians to holiday at home,” opposition politician Alexei Navalny wrote on his blog, The Guardian reports. “Yes, they think we are idiots,” anti-corruption campaigner Lyubov Sobol added on Facebook.

Safonov has responded to the backlash by saying he sold his Seychelles properties. He also argued his words had been misinterpreted, adding he has “great respect for seaside holidays,” The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, Russia’s health authorities have also warned Russians of the dangers of traveling to warmer regions.

“It’s better not to overstress the body with temperature and climate changes,” Russia’s chief sanitary doctor, Anna Popova, told the Interfax news agency, The Guardian reports. “Of course I advise you to holiday in Russia.”