Given the highly dynamic situation with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict changing by the hour, issues with commercial flights to Eastern Europe will arise quickly. In 2022, Ukraine was expected to receive 10.9 million international arrivals, and $1.4 billion from inbound spending, according to GlobalData predictions made before the conflict started. 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.
Travel companies are avoiding the area
On February 24th, the Federal Aviation Administration expanded the no-fly zone in eastern Europe for US carriers to include all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well as part of Western Russia. Air travel worldwide is becoming more complex too, due to travel bans and sanctions coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After Britain banned Russian Aeroflot flights to the UK, Russia responded by closing off all British flights from its airspace. Many of those flights are being rerouted through nearby countries, according to the International Air Transport Association. However, the group warned Thursday that “closure of additional airspace could impact this scenario.”
Some major travel operators have already adjusted certain itineraries in Ukraine and pulled the plug on other excursions altogether. Demand for international travel saw a sharp drop, as evidenced by Kayak flight-search data that showed international travel searches dropped eight percentage points overnight as the war began, the steepest fall in months. All of this is a strong indication that Ukraine’s tourism industry will suffer and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. There is going to be long-term damage to popular tourism destinations such as Kyiv and Odessa, which so soon after COVID-19 restrictions caused significant impacts to global tourism, means Ukraine will take much longer to recover.
The reprioritization of Visit Ukraine’s website suggests it will be long-term issue
The Visit Ukraine website, previously used for tourism advice, has been transformed into an information portal for help, where Ukrainians and foreign citizens can go to get the necessary information on how to act in a critical situation, where to go, bomb shelter addresses, how to leave the country or evacuate from a dangerous region. In addition, it has collated a list of important updates such as a nationwide survey and an appeal by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. This suggests that the Ukrainian government understands its position and is in it for the long term. The fact that this website has switched from providing insight into entry requirements for the country to a website that helps citizens and travelers leave is telling of the negative situation surrounding Ukraine’s current position as a destination market. Ultimately, tourism is certainly not a priority and nor should it be, given the circumstances. As a result, it could be many years before the tourism industry in Ukraine sees any king of notable resurgence.