The absence of Russians during the May holidays spells a disaster for the European tourism sector as experts predicted losses of billions of dollars.
European resorts are staring at economic gloom as the Ukraine conflict has led to the low tourist turnout from Russia.
The resorts began to feel the pinch during the May holidays, which Russians are spending “at home” and not somewhere abroad.
But European analysts say that the worst is yet to come. European tourists themselves will not be able to fill the gap because of the rising cost of flights, touristic services, food and petrol. Tourists in Germany and the US are preparing for an unprecedented price shock for a good reason. The sanctions imposed by the West against Russia have started to backfire on them instead.
What do the foreign media say?
Nowadays, Russians cannot get to the European countries without spending substantial sums and experiencing challenging journeys because on February 27 the EU completely closed the airspace for Russia, and the Federal Air Transport Agency restricted flights over Russian territory to carriers from 36 countries, according to the Russian news outlet Izvestia.
In addition, potential travellers from Russia are frightened by the situation in countries recognized by the Kremlin as "unfriendly."
"I waited and hoped that at least in 2022 COVID would be gone and the freedom of movement around the world would come back," Roman Biryukov, the owner of a large Moscow company, told TRT Russian.
"But I think I will now voluntarily stay at home.”
A columnist in the British newspaper The Telegraph states that destinations that depend on Russian tourists "face enormous financial losses," underlining that the Czech Republic, Italy, France, as well as Montenegro, "which used to attract Russian tourists, including buyers of local luxury real estate, are already suffering the most."
Hoteliers in Europe also fear a shortage of wealthy tourists. Businessmen from Tuscany in Italy and Cote d'Azur in France warned The Telegraph about the possibility of such a scenario.
Other European media outlets have also confirmed that the absence of Russian tourists has already been noticed by real-estate agencies and owners of facilities in Italy. The newspaper’s interlocutors, the owner of the company specializing in the housing market Scalea Nicola Rotondaro and the owner of the restaurant La Playa Salvatore said that Russian tourists often came here for holidays and vacations, spending much more money than Italians and any other tourists.
"Usually there are a lot of Russians here. Now there aren't any," Salvatore admitted. "We're already at a standstill. The Russians aren’t coming anymore; they've been banned from traveling," confirmed Rotondaro, pointing out that all local business depends on tourists from the Russian Federation to a great extent.
However, according to travel writers, the biggest victims of the current situation will be Greek-administered Cyprus, as its tourism industry is a quarter of the country's economy.
To make up for the lack of Russians, the country's hotel association is actively attracting holidaymakers from other countries, such as Great Britain, Germany and Israel. But most of the citizens of these states seem not to be able to afford holidays either.
How much is the loss estimated?
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which was quoted by the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) on its website, the global tourism industry may lose more than $14 billion because of the military operation in Ukraine, the anti-Russian sanctions and the counter-sanctions. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Nikolay Vavilov, a Total Research strategist, told the Russian media that Russians spent more than $35 billion annually on travel and vacations abroad, of which at least 60 percent was spent in European countries. This may not be much compared to the Chinese, who spent more than $270 billion annually before the pandemic, but there is an important detail that should be taken into account. Both Russia and Ukraine were major “suppliers” of tourists to neighbouring countries, including European “beach destinations”. And during the pandemic, it was the Russians who kept the tourism sector of the Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka alive.
In 2021, Italy earned more than 200 million euros on Russian tourists. This year, according to the hotel association Federalberghi, Rome alone will lose about 150 million euros due to the absence of Russians. Obviously, these calculations are very rough, because, for example, in 2019 Italy was visited by 1.7 million Russians, spending there a total of almost a billion euros.
More than 1.3 million Russians came to Spain in 2019, and their absence in 2022, according to the forecast of the country's Tourism Institute, promises a loss of 1.4 billion euros. Greece, which last year, despite the pandemic, hosted about 120 thousand Russian travelers, has almost completely stopped booking for Russians today.
Greek-administered Cyprus is at risk of losing up to 2.5 percent of annual GDP if Russian tourists, whose share is estimated at 25-30 percent, will not return to the country by the end of the year, the ATOR’s analysts write.
Even distant exotic Cuba and the Dominican Republic are preparing to calculate losses due to the shortage of Russian tourists. After all, if we believe the UNWTO, during the pandemic it was the Russians who accounted for the bulk of vacationers (40 percent) on the Freedom Island, and in the Dominican Republic they were second only to Americans, and the consequences of the Russians' absence there have already been called “terrible”.