Ukraine invasion causes Russian outbound tourism to collapse

New data from ForwardKeys on May 6 reveals that Russian outbound tourism, already severely handicapped by pandemic travel restrictions, has fallen even further, because of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

In the week commencing February 18, before the outbreak of war, outbound international air tickets from Russia stood at 42% of pre-pandemic levels. However, in the week immediately after the invasion, issued air tickets fell to just 19%. Since then, flight bookings have sunk deeper still and have been hovering at around 15%.

The top five destinations for travel are Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the UAE (Photo: ForwardKeys)

Due to war-related sanctions on civil aviation, Russians are unable to book flights to many of their favourite destinations in the West; thus, they book trips to the Middle East and Asia instead.

Olivier Ponti, vice president insights, ForwardKeys, said: “The war with Ukraine, and the consequent sanctions on flying, have effectively caused Russia’s outbound tourism market to dry up. Those people who are still flying comprise a small, affluent niche, who are forced to holiday in Asia and the Middle East rather than in Europe, which is their favourite destination in normal times.”

An analysis of flight bookings made between February 24 (the start of the invasion) and April 27 reveals that the top five destinations for travel between May and August, in order of resilience, are Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the UAE. Bookings to Sri Lanka are currently 85% ahead of pre-pandemic levels, to the Maldives 1% behind, to Kyrgyzstan 11% behind, to Turkey 36% behind and to the UAE, 49% behind.

However, Sri Lanka’s position at the head of the list is not a true reflection of the island’s attractiveness as a destination. Instead, it is a consequence of terrorist bombings, which scared away visitors in 2019, the pre-pandemic benchmark year.

Further analysis of the recent tickets booked to Turkey and the UAE suggests that a very substantial proportion are affluent Russians going on holiday, based on the number of seats sold in premium cabins tripled, compared to 2019, with the average trip duration for premium travellers being 12 nights in Turkey and 7 nights in the UAE.

Changes to flight schedules, following Russian hostilities in Ukraine, have been ongoing since the beginning of the invasion, with the recent cessation of flights to Russia by Air Baltic on April 14, and EgyptAir’s resumption of daily direct flights between Cairo and Moscow on April 22.

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