Russian tourists are changing holiday destinations
Russian tourists have already felt the impact of international travel complications to a greater extent than most other Europeans. The tourist flow from Russia to the rest of the continent this year has declined sharply, according to Maya Lomidze, the executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.
Difficulties in obtaining visas, as well as the increased cost and duration of air travel, are the main reasons for this precipitous drop. In the first seven months of this year, organized visits by Russian tourists to other European countries amounted to only 5-10 percent of the volume during pre-Covid times.
In February, the European Union, like the United States, banned direct flights to and from Russia, and Russian airspace was reciprocally closed.
A one-way from Moscow to Vienna now costs about $3 500, having skyrocketed over the past few years. It previously could be had for at least twenty times less.
The Czech Republic, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Estonia, and Latvia have stopped issuing tourist visas to Russians and many others are delaying the deadlines for submitting documents. For example, in September, the nearest free slot offered by the Italian visa center in Moscow was in November, and there are no free places at all at France’s visa center in the near future.
In the current situation, Russians are looking for new destinations or returning to old familiar ones. For example, Thailand expects about one million Russian tourists this year. Domestic Russian tourism has also been a beneficiary, with Crimea topping the list of the country’s most popular destinations, according to surveys.
Last year, the number of foreign tourist trips from Russia amounted to 18 million, two and a half times fewer than in the pre-Covid year of 2019.
This year, the figures for outbound tourism will be far lower. Statistics in certain areas are quite stunning. The number of Russian tourists who traveled to the United States from April to June decreased year-on-year by more than 900 times – from 36 700 to 39 people.
The absence of Russian tourists has led to a loss of profits for Western resorts. According to Euromonitor International, Russian tourists account for one percent of global travel expenditure. Russians spent $9,1 billion abroad in 2021, but they are forecast to contribute less than $6,9 billion to the global tourism industry this year due to the current difficulties. The loss of wealthy Russian tourists will not undermine the recovery of the industry, but it will deal serious damage to many countries: from Europe and the Caribbean to Thailand.
Some European resorts are already feeling the effects of the dearth of Russian guests. Italy would hoped to have welcomed as many Russian tourists this year as it did in 2019, when 1,7 million travelers spent about a billion euros there. However, this year, the city of Rome alone is set to lose about €150 million from their absence.