According to Mikhail Ilyin, a priest and tour company owner in Pattaya, Thailand, Russians are not the most enthusiastic vacation planners. In contrast to European visitors, who prefer to plan their vacations one or two years in advance, Russian tourists are more impulsive.
Of course, this is a generalization, but patterns like these are taken into consideration when making national and international travel predictions. According to Statista, the Russian Federation was among the top ten nations whose residents spent the most money overseas prior to the epidemic. Their favorite summer vacation locations, such as Turkey, Thailand, and Cyprus, were no doubt looking forward to an influx of guests when the summer season arrived.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put an end to such ambitions, as it has in so many other spheres of life as well. The effect on areas like Pattaya, which has been dubbed ‘the most Russian city in Southeast Asia,’ may take some time to be felt, given Russians’ proclivity for making last-minute travel arrangements.
We met with representatives from national tourist boards as well as individuals working in Russian-dependent tourism industries to get a better understanding of how the war may affect travel this summer.
Risks to the revival of the tourist industry across the globe. It is not just Russian and Ukrainian tourist networks that will be impacted in our globalized world of vacationing, but all tourism networks throughout the globe.
The United Nations Globe Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has issued a strong warning, stating that “this is a significant regional catastrophe with potentially terrible ramifications for the whole world.” Affecting international order and global governance, as well as directly affecting the lives of millions of people, decisions taken in the near future will have far-reaching consequences.”
The Russian people, like the rest of the world, confront an uncertain future. And they haven’t given up traveling completely, despite obstacles on their way to the west. Exactly eight days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Thailand welcomed 454 Russian tourists on March 4. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, this is close to the daily average of 650 tourists each day (TAT).
What is it about Thailand that Russians continue to visit?
The priest Mikhail Ilyin relocated from Estonia to Pattaya in the late 1990s and created Ilves tours with his Russian wife, who is also a tour guide.
In Ilyin’s words, “Pattaya was something of a pioneer city for Russian travel.” “With the exception of Pattaya, Russia didn’t know anything about Thailand for a long time.” After developing into what is now more of a district of Bangkok, Phuket began to overtake it in appeal with wealthy Russian tourists as the city grew in size and sophistication.
The wealthiest class of Russians – those “who will never stop travelling,” according to him – are still on the move, even if there are no budget tourists going to Pattaya at the moment. Surprisingly, the family firm is presently selling more five-star hotel stays than it has ever done in its entire history. He believes that the increase is due to the reaction of rich Russians to the crisis.
According to him, “they believe that ‘we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.'” “They believe that today is a good day to enjoy life. Perhaps a nuclear war will erupt, or perhaps Russia will become a closed society like North Korea. Nobody is aware of it. “Let’s get moving today.”
The tour operator-turned-priest preaches to a diverse group of expatriates from Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet countries in his congregation at the Russian Orthodox Church. He claims that they numbered more than 50,000 10 years ago, but that their numbers have now decreased to roughly 3,000 in the city. During the Covid-19 recession, many company owners returned home, and others were able to continue their vacations in Turkey or Spain.
Tourism officials in Cyprus are preparing for the ‘worst-case scenario.’
Tourism is a significant economic industry in Cyprus, accounting for around 25% of the country’s gross domestic product. Russians account for 20% of all overseas visitors in the country, making them the country’s second most important market behind the United Kingdom.
Deputy Director General of the Cyprus Hotel Association, Philokypros Rousounides, described the situation as “a major dilemma.” The Russian tourism ministry is preparing for the worst-case scenario, which would result in the entire loss of around 800,000 visitors from both Russian and Ukrainian destinations.
Summer reservations generally peak in May, with tour companies accounting for more than 80 percent of all summer bookings. Given another generalization on which both Ilyin and Roussounides agree: Russians have a tendency to return to the same places, their departure will not be felt equally.
Individuals “come to one location and attempt to remain as long as they possibly can,” according to Ilyin, rather than migrating throughout the nation. In order to enjoy natural beauty and beaches, people prefer hotels that provide them these amenities.
Tourist destinations such as Pattaya in Thailand and also the eastern Cypriot resorts of Famagusta and Ayia Napa are especially popular with visitors. “There are certain hotels that have been working on a 100 percent commitment with the Russian market,” Roussounides explains. In such instances, the ramifications are enormous.”
According to the head of the hoteliers’ organization, although they are working to assist these firms on a national level, “the EU should support such situations on the grounds that we also agreed on sanctions against the Russians.” Tourist arrivals from Russia account for the biggest proportion of all arrivals in Croatia, the EU’s smallest member state by population.
“However, I would not argue that we are on the verge of having another horrible year,” adds Roussounides, after Covid’s two years of inactivity. He believes that enhanced connection with France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, and Israel (among other countries) would allow the industry to achieve its goal of improving on 2021 in the shortest amount of time.
The twin whammy of rising energy prices makes it harder to attract new visitors with lower-priced packages, but Cyprus has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and culture. And it’s expected that restrictions will be eased even further, with the abolition of the Cyprus Flight Pass for foreigners as well as the safe pass that is presently required to enter bars and cafés.
Aside from that, the Ministry of Tourism in Cyprus is planning to provide assistance to around 2,500 Ukrainians who were “kicked out” of Egyptian hotels and are now taking refuge in Cypriot accommodations.
In Turkey and Thailand, there are issues with planes and payments.
The beach resort of Antalya, on Turkey’s ‘Turquoise Coast,’ is another popular destination for Russians and their allies, located a few hundred kilometers farther north. The Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Belarus accounted for more than half of the Pine Beach Hotel’s 9 million guests in 2017.
Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries are keeping some Russian visitors in the country. Even while Turkey has maintained flights to Russia, the budget airline Pegasus has ceased service to the country, and Russian Visa and Mastercard credit cards are no longer valid for use outside of the country’s borders.
The future of our existence and our ability to endure are in doubt.”
A 31-year-old Russian tourist tells AFP that she and her family are on vacation in the country. “We’ve come here for a vacation with our children.” Naturally, given the current scenario, it is uncertain when they will return us to Russia, which aircraft we will be able to board, and what will happen next. We would want to remain [here], without a doubt, but we are in a terrible position since our cards are not working. The future of our existence and our ability to endure are in doubt.”
Thailand has remained a neutral posture in the conflict and has also maintained access to its airspace. However, as a result of the EU’s prohibition on Airbus leases, Russian carriers were obliged to cancel a large number of overseas flights, including all Aeroflot flights to Thailand beginning on March 8. A large number of visitors have been left stranded in Thai resorts as a consequence of the situation.
What is the impact on other countries?
According to the United Countries World Tourism Organization, island nations that rely on tourism, such as the Maldives, would be particularly hard hit. As a result of the epidemic, the Russian market in the Seychelles increased from 4.5 to 17 percent of the total market share.
Meanwhile, Russia’s heavily visited neighbors, such as Estonia and Finland, are less concerned about summer tourism in their countries.
Tourist permits for Russian nationals have been suspended in Estonia for the foreseeable future. In the words of the Tourist Board, “the decision was reached as a result of technological issues encountered in the payment of visa and service costs.” As a result, even in the vibrant resort city of Pärnu where Russian visitors are “more modestly represented” throughout the summer, the effect on Estonia will be mitigated.
It is believed that an increase in other visits as a result of the Covid-19 limitations would make up for it.