Many countries from the West have imposed economic sanctions on Russia, effectively stopping any form of travel to Western Europe and North America. As a result, global tourism faces yet another challenging year in 2022.
According to GlobalData’s Tourism Demands and Flows Database, Russia is Europe’s third-largest source market with a projected 25.5 million outbound trips taken in 2021. Although European governments widely understand that sanctions will inevitably damage the economy, few industries will suffer more than the tourism industry, which is already under considerable strain.
The full impact is yet to be felt
Russian tourists are typically highly seasonal, with many seeking sun, sea and sand holidays to escape the cool spring and summer climate, particularly in the North of Russia. This is reflected by a GlobalData Q4 2021 Global Consumer Survey, in which 61% of Russian respondents said they typically take a beach holiday. Prior to the pandemic, this demand resulted in a package holiday boom in Russia, creating a lucrative source market for global tourism.
Initially, projections for Russian outbound tourism in 2022 were thought to be in the region of 38 million, its highest level since the pandemic. However, the actual number is likely to be a fraction of this, resulting in many tourism businesses scrapping their predictions for this year and preparing themselves for yet more turbulence. The full outbound travel recovery from COVID-19 was initially projected for 2024 in Russia. However, the chance of this happening is now slim due to the ongoing travel sanctions and political conflicts between Russia, Ukraine and Western Europe. As such, even the most financially robust Russian tour operators and airlines will have a fight on their hands in order to survive yet another difficult year for revenue.
Global tourism will be hit, but less so in the East
Package holiday destinations will feel the pinch. Russia is a significant source market for Turkey, Spain, Cyprus and Italy for such holidays. Meanwhile, countries such as Poland, Estonia, and Germany also stand to lose approximately two million tourists according to GlobalData projections for 2022. Countries in the East such as China, UAE and Thailand were also expected to receive several million tourists in 2022. Still, they are less likely to be as badly affected as they have not imposed any sanctions on Russia and at the present moment in time, don’t look likely to. However, tourist numbers are unlikely to be groundbreaking due to the inevitable economic recession about to hit Russia caused by numerous economic sanctions from the West.
The impact on tourism could last for many years
Geopolitical tensions tend to have a lasting effect on tourism. Perhaps the most famous European example from the last 40 years was the fall of tourism due to the war in the former Yugoslavia. Tourism in the early 90s was almost non-existent and took nearly 20 years to recover. While it is impossible to predict precisely how long it could take for tourism to recover from the Russia-Ukraine crisis, it seems unlikely that this will resolve anytime soon. As a result, the global tourism industry is set to feel the impacts of sanctions on Russia for several years to come.