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Russian outbound travel stalls

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SINGAPORE, 4 March 2022: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine launched on 24 February prompted an instant spike in flight cancellations to and from Russia, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys.

On 25 February, the day after the start of the invasion, every booking that was made for travel to Russia was outweighed by six cancellations of pre-existing bookings. The source markets exhibiting the highest cancellation rates, in order of volume, were Germany 773%, France 472%, Italy 152%, the UK 254%, India 285% and Turkey 116%.

The invasion also triggered a collapse in the market for Russian outbound travel. Destinations that suffered the highest immediate cancellation rates, from 24 to 26 February, were Cyprus (300%), Egypt (234%), Turkey (153%), the UK (153%), Armenia (200%), and Maldives (165%).

Before the outbreak of war, Russian outbound flight bookings for March, April and May, had recovered to 32% of pre-pandemic levels, with some holiday hotspots doing exceptionally well.

Mexico led the way with flight bookings 427% ahead of 2019 levels. It was followed by Seychelles 279%, Egypt 192% and the Maldives 115% ahead of 2019 levels.

The outlook for travel was significantly stronger during July and August, as flight bookings stood at 46% of 2019 levels, with destinations like the Maldives 78% ahead, Seychelles 275% ahead, and Egypt 216% ahead.

For some of the countries mentioned above, such as the Seychelles, Maldives and Cyprus, Russian arrivals represent a high percentage of all international arrivals; so, a collapse in Russian travel will have damaging consequences on their tourism-dependent economies.

The countries that currently stand to suffer the most include Armenia, which depends on Russia for 47% of all visitors, Azerbaijan 44%, Uzbekistan 34%, Bulgaria 18%, the Seychelles 16%, the Maldives 15% and Cyprus 13%.

Before the outbreak of war, the top 20 destinations most booked by Russian travellers in March, April and May were, in order of total bookings, Turkey, the UAE, the Maldives, Thailand, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Armenia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Hungary, Bulgaria, Mexico, Spain, Azerbaijan, USA, UK, Qatar, Italy and Uzbekistan.

Coinciding with the collapse in international air travel, a strong recovery in domestic air travel immediately stalled. Up to 23 February, Russian domestic flight bookings for March, April and May were running 25% ahead of pre-pandemic levels. However, new bookings fell 77%, analysed on a week-on-week basis.

ForwardKeys, vice president insights Olivier Ponti said: “The outbreak of war always has a hugely damaging impact on the travel industry; and that is what we see here, with mass cancellations in flight bookings to and from Russia.

“The Russian tourism economy was beginning to revive from the pandemic, and it will now experience another substantial blow. There will also be serious impacts on destinations that depend heavily on Russian visitors. The current data does not yet contain the impact of sanctions, which is bound to make the picture worse. Of course, should there be a cease-fire and successful peace talks, the outlook for travel should improve. However, while the economic damage already looks set to be dreadful, it is nothing compared to the human suffering experienced by the people in Ukraine.”

About ForwardKeys

Founded in 2010, ForwardKeys delivers data and insights to tourism organisations, hotels, and retailers keen to understand who is travelling where, when, and for how long.

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