Sanctions curb wanderlust: Where Russians (can) go on vacation this summer

The sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine war dampen the Russians' desire to travel.

Sanctions curb wanderlust: Where Russians (can) go on vacation this summer

The sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine war dampen the Russians' desire to travel. Money is tight, planes are being confiscated, western airspace is closed. Nevertheless, popular holiday countries like Turkey use unusual means to lure people into the important source of money.

Summer is here. This is also the main vacation time for Russians. But traveling is not so easy for them this year. On the one hand, there are the sanctions due to the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, which are hitting the Russian economy hard. Inflation is picking up, everything is getting more expensive. The research and appraisal institute of the VEB Bank expects that many people will slip into poverty.

"The sanctions are already making themselves felt in people's everyday lives," says Marco Gardini. The tourism professor from the Kempten University of Applied Sciences explains in the ntv podcast "Learned something again" - not only because there may be a lack of money to travel. "It's more of a psychological question as to whether I want to go on vacation in Russia or abroad at all during this time," explains Gardini. Especially in European holiday destinations, supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin are not likely to be welcomed at the moment.

Recreational opportunities away from home are limited for Russians after the attack on Ukraine. There is currently no air traffic between Moscow and the EU and other European countries due to Western sanctions. Eleven airports are currently closed in southern Russia due to the war of aggression against Ukraine. The Black Sea resort town of Anapa, Rostov-on-Don and the city of Krasnodar are among those affected. If you want to fly abroad from Russia, you have to put up with long, expensive detours.

In addition, the airlines can no longer get spare parts for their Airbus or Boeing planes. "Many planes, including those from Russian airlines, are leased from Western companies. As soon as they fly out of Russia, they are held on the ground. Ultimately, they are assets that are then subject to sanctions. These planes remain on the ground. In this respect, air traffic is extremely restricted ", says Marco Gardini. There are also restrictions on land transport towards Ukraine, the south and the Black Sea coast. "The infrastructure in the rest of the Russian Federation is still intact."

At the beginning of March, according to the Russian news agency Tass, the Kremlin advised Russians to refrain from "unofficial trips" abroad. However, even in "normal" times, only a comparatively small proportion of Russians travel to other countries, says Marco Gardini: only 20 percent. For Germans it is almost 80 percent. This year, only eight percent of Russians plan to spend their holidays in other countries, reports Tass.

According to Gardini, a third, 30 percent, drive away in their own country, many also stay at home. The Kremlin may have played its part in this by partially reimbursing the cost of domestic travel. Inland, the Russians like to travel to the annexed peninsula of Crimea, among other places.

"Holidays on the beach are the main reason for travel for large parts of the Russian population," says Gardini. The favorite destinations are Thailand, Indonesia, China or Sri Lanka. If it shouldn't go that far away, the Russians headed for the Black Sea coast or Turkey. "Turkey has an extremely large proportion of Russian guests and it is said that, according to Turkish sources, Turkey is missing almost five million visitors from Russia this year, plus two million from Ukraine. Of course they are relatively badly affected."

Last year, most vacationers in Turkey came from Russia, 19 percent. In second place with 12.5 percent were guests from Germany, the Ukrainians made up the third largest group with 8.3 percent. In Turkey - next to the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates - the fewest restrictions apply to Russian tourists.

Turkey is in an economic crisis and urgently needs the income from tourism. The country is therefore trying to attract Russian tourists to the country again this year. The Turkish airlines offer more flights between the two countries. And Turkey has specially founded the new charter airline Southwind, five machines are to commute back and forth between Russia and Turkey.

In addition, Russian tourists can easily pay in the country with their Russian credit card "Mir". Several Turkish banks accept them. Otherwise, Russian Visa and Mastercard cards no longer work abroad because the American credit card providers have stopped their services for customers from Russia.

More than 100 million people are already using the "Mir" card. Russians can also use it to pay and withdraw money in other popular holiday countries - such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cyprus. In addition to Turkey, Cyprus also expects tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian holidaymakers to stay away this year because of the Ukraine war. Bulgaria also has similar problems.

Not many holiday countries can afford to accommodate Russian tourists, Gardini says in the podcast. Hardly any country can make concessions, for example on price, after two years of the pandemic. "In addition, the Russian guest is not really the main target group in most destinations, or these countries have broadened their target group orientation and can compensate the Russians in this case to a certain extent economically for the failure of a specific target group."

Many Mediterranean countries are also looking for a replacement for Russian vacationers, mainly in the luxury segment. Oligarchs spent many years relaxing on the Italian and French Mediterranean coasts, owning or owning real estate and yachts there, before attacking Ukraine. On the Côte d'Azur, business with Russians accounts for seven percent of annual sales, the regional tourism association told the "Handelsblatt". If they don't come this year, around 200 million euros would be lost.

"These longing destinations of the Russian upper class or the super-rich, such as the Côte d'Azur or Switzerland, Italy, St. Moritz, Kitzbühel, Marbella, it's also noticeable there. You will certainly expect reduced income," says Marco Gardini. Fewer oligarch yachts have also been sighted on the island of Saint-Barth in the Caribbean, popular with the super-rich and celebrities.

They are currently taking their luxury yachts to safety in Turkey or the United Arab Emirates "because there is a fear that the sanctions will then access these assets".

Most Russians will probably - if at all - take a vacation in their own country this year. The hotels are already preparing for more guests. But even here, not all travel destinations are possible. On the popular Crimean Peninsula, for example, a third of accommodation is likely to remain closed in the summer. The hotels are preparing for 30 to 40 percent fewer guests, writes the Moscow newspaper Kommersant. Crimea is not easy to get to right now, there are not enough train tickets. Airplanes are not allowed to fly there. In case of doubt, the holiday at your own dacha remains.

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