Russian Outbound Market Shrinks, Redirects to Asia

Caribbean News…
17 May 2022 10:56pm

Photo: Alexander Riverón

The latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys reveals that Russian outbound tourism, already severely handicapped by pandemic travel restrictions, has fallen even further, because of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. But affluent travelers are still flying, just not to Europe.

In the week before the outbreak of war (w/c 18th Feb), outbound international air tickets from Russia stood at 42% of pre-pandemic levels; but in the week immediately after the invasion (w/c 25th Feb), issued air tickets fell to just 19%. Since then, flight bookings have sunk deeper still and have been hovering at around 15%.

Owing to war-related sanctions on civil aviation, Russians cannot book flights to many of their favorite destinations in the West; so, they are instead booking trips to Asia and the Middle East.

An analysis of flight bookings by ForwardKeys made between 24th February, the start of the invasion, and 27th April, the latest data, 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, the Maldives 1% behind, Kyrgyzstan 11% behind, Turkey 36% behind and the UAE, 49% behind.

“Something to note though is that Sri Lanka’s position at the head of the list is not a true reflection of the island’s attractiveness as a destination, it’s more about safety. Rather, it is a consequence of terrorist bombings, which scared away visitors in 2019, the pre-pandemic benchmark year,” says Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights at ForwardKeys.

A deeper analysis of the recently issued tickets to Turkey and the UAE suggests that a substantial proportion are affluent Russians going on holiday. Premium cabin travel is making a comeback. The number of seats sold in premium cabins has tripled, compared to 2019.

Moreover, the average trip duration for premium travelers is now 12 nights in Turkey and 7 nights in the UAE.

“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 an elite, affluent niche, who are forced to holiday in Asia and the Middle East rather than in Europe. Let’s see how this plays out over the summer season,” adds Ponti.

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