The Russian tourism industry has collapsed in 2022, especially among organized tours, as foreign travelers stay away after the country invades Ukraine.
Sergei Romashkin, the head of Russian tour operator Delfin, estimated that organized trips to Russia had fallen by 90% in part because of the negative image of Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, the ban on use of Visa and Mastercard in the country and restrictions imposed by Russia. visa program, The Moscow Times reported.
Official figures show tourism has fallen by 40% since last year with 190,000 visitors entering Russia in 2022 compared to 290,000 last year.
In 2019, around 5.1 million tourists visited Russia, 400,000 of them on organized tours.
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Tour operators have reportedly shifted their focus from inbound tourism to running domestic tours in major Russian cities, and Romashkin said a “noticeable flow” of new tourists from Europe “should not be expected in 2023” .
Romashkin said the “small growth” in tourism could come from countries like Iran that have visa-free travel deals with Russia.
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The US State Department’s latest travel guidelines to Russia in October told Americans they should not travel to the country.
“Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment of U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the removal of U.S. citizens to Russia by Russian government security officials, including for detention, arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights to and from Russia, limited embassy ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism,” the State Department adviser said.
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“US citizens residing or traveling in Russia should leave Russia immediately.”
Rebekah Koffler, a Russia-focused former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer and the author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” told Fox News Digital that it’s “not surprising ” that tourism in Russia is falling due to the “uncertainly associated with the Russian-Ukrainian war and the possibility of escalation”.
“Nobody wants to be stuck in Russia in the middle of a war,” Koffler said. “There’s also probably the fear of being detained by Russian authorities who tend to use prisoner swap tactics, especially if you’re an American or European.”
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“Besides, it’s hard to travel if you can’t use your Visa or Mastercard. And for Americans, if you can’t have your Starbucks and your Big Mac, who would want to go to such a place?”
The decline in tourist numbers extends outside of Russia to countries bordering Russia and Ukraine. While European countries have seen tourism rebound since the easing of coronavirus travel restrictions, countries neighboring Ukraine and Russia have 30% late under pre-pandemic levels.
Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania all recorded lower levels of tourism in 2022 than in 2019.
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“The pandemic has exposed underlying weaknesses in the broader tourism economy,” said Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretary-General Mathias Cormann.
“The fallout from Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine now threatens the sector’s recovery. The challenge for governments and businesses is not just to boost tourism in the short term, but also to ensure the strength and sustainability of the sector in the long term.
Organized tourism to Russia down 90% in 2022 as Ukraine invasion drags on – Reuters