There was a time when Western Europe was the destination of selection for Russian tourists.
But things have modified.
Max, a Russian in his 40s, used to walk museums in France, enjoy high-quality cuisine in Italy, and go on hikes on the hills of Spain.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine. This 12 months, Max, who told CNBC that he isn’t comfortable sharing his last name, “didn’t even consider” Europe as a vacation destination.
“I’m aware of the issues with obtaining visas to European countries,” he said.
Last week, the European Union agreed to suspend a 2007 travel agreement with Moscow which facilitated the issuance of visas to Russians. The move will make it harder and expensive for Russians to travel to the bloc.
In the long run, when Putin leaves and we turn out to be a standard country again, I hope that I’ll give you the chance to go to Europe again.
The closure of EU airspace to Russian airlines in February also made traveling difficult.
“The bad irony is that I’m absolutely against the war and Putin, but I also experience travel difficulties,” Max said.
“In the long run, when Putin leaves and we turn out to be a standard country again, I hope that I’ll give you the chance to go to Europe again. I like Italy very much.”
Fewer Russians in Europe
Max is one in all many Russians who traded European holiday destinations for other countries this summer.
EU countries like Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Greece were among the many top 20 destinations most booked by Russian travelers before the war’s outbreak, in response to data from ForwardKeys, a travel data company.
EU countries like Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Greece were among the many top 20 destinations most booked by Russian travelers before the war’s outbreak, in response to ForwardKeys data.
Francesco Riccardo Iacomino | Moment | Getty Images
Nevertheless, Olivier Ponti of ForwardKeys said Russian air travel to Europe over the summer was just 26% of what it was in 2019.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has actually restricted the vacation selections of its residents, as direct flights to many popular destinations have been banned,” he said. “It continues to be possible for Russians to go to Europe, but they now need to vary planes in places like Istanbul or Dubai.”
In response to ForwardKeys, which examined flight arrival data, several leisure destinations saw a rise available in the market share of Russian visitors in June, July and August in comparison with 2019.
- Maldives (from 5% to twenty%)
- Seychelles (3% to 7%)
- Turkey (4% to eight%)
- United Arab Emirates (1% to three%)
Most of those countries were popular with Russian visitors before the war too. In response to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), Turkey was the highest destination for Russian tourists in 2019, followed by the Russia-occupied territory of Abkhazia, the UAE and Maldives.
Analysts from the EIU told CNBC that the Maldives has long been a preferred destination for wealthy Russians who can easily obtain tourist visas on arrival to not sleep to 90 days.
Russian tourist arrivals to Europe decreased throughout the summer, but rose within the Maldives, a favourite vacation spot for the country’s wealthy residents.
Nicolas Economou | Nurphoto | Getty Images
A more favorable exchange rate in Turkey since mid-March likely boosted travel numbers there, EIU analysts Mario Bikarski and Federica Reccia told CNBC. The Turkish lira currently stands at 18.23 against the dollar— near record lows after Turkey’s central bank slashed its benchmark rates in August despite inflation being near 80%.
Still, Russians’ ability to travel could also be further curtailed, they said. Along with the EU’s suspension of its 2007 preferential visa agreement with Moscow, Bikarski and Reccia said, economic problems could discourage Russians from traveling.
“Because the war grinds on, we also expect the deteriorating economic outlook to weigh on Russians’ propensity to travel.”