In recent years, a wealthy middle class has emerged in Russia, for whom holidays are important and who would also like to enjoy luxury. His favorite destinations include countries like Cuba, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey. The Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka are also attracting more and more guests from Russia, as is sun-kissed Cyprus in the Mediterranean, the United Nations Tourism Authority (UNWTO) told DW.
According to UNWTO, in 2020, for which the latest data is available, Russian tourists accounted for $ 14 billion in global tourism and three percent of total tourism. Before the pandemic (2019), sales more than double, with $ 36 billion, according to the World Tourism Organization, Ukrainian travelers contributed an additional $ 8.5 billion in sales.
Since the beginning of the war of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the alarm bell – tourist – has been ringing in the aforementioned countries. In Cyprus, guests from Russia (20%) and Ukraine (2%) represent a total of 22% of overnight stays. Turkey could – based on data from the Turkish statistical authority of the previous year – lose about 4.7 million visitors from Russia – plus about two million from Ukraine.
In Cypriot Famagusta, some hotels are 100% dependent on Russian tourists
Destinations are influenced according to their orientation, according to Professor Urs Wagenseil of the Competence Center of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. “Some regions like Turkey’s southern coast, Thailand or Bali will lose a large number of tourists, while cities like St. Moritz, Sölden or Vienna will miss ‘upper class’ tourists.” In any case, it is clear that these deficits cannot be compensated “overnight”.
The effects for Cuba are even more dramatic. For the tourism industry there, Russia has turned into a beacon of hope after the number of visitors to the Caribbean island dropped by 70% in 2021 due to the crown pandemic – 40% of all foreign tourists. in Cuba it came from Russia.
Russian tourists in Cuba: welcome and now very much missed
Diversification is important
In principle, it is always advisable for a country not to specialize too much on holidaymakers from a single country of origin, says Professor Jürgen Schmude, president of the German Society for Tourism Research, in an interview with DW. “But knowledge of textbooks doesn’t always translate into reality,” he adds.
The tourism industry experienced continuous growth over a period of 20 years until the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. Many countries have managed to diversify, Jürgen Schmude points out and illustrates this with Turkey: the country on the Bosphorus attracts not only about four and a half million Russian tourists, but also many millions from other countries.
Cyprus hoteliers and restaurateurs are also relatively calm about further developments. Philokypros Roussounides, general manager of the Cyprus Hotel Association, said that “thanks to better cooperation with France, Germany, Poland, Hungary and other European countries, 2022 will be better than last year, despite the lack of guests from Russia and despite the increase in energy prices “.
War as a “holiday risk”
From the point of view of tourism researchers, another aspect can have consequences for destination countries that are at least as serious as the absence of travelers from a particular country of origin: if events occur that put a holiday region in a bad light and they pose a “risk” to the show on planned holidays. Hence vacationers from other countries also cancel their planned stays and further worsen the budget of the vacation country.
Jürgen Schmude, president of the German Society for Tourism Studies
Such events can be natural disasters – scientists then refer to “natural hazards” – such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or floods. But man-made risks such as wars, terrorist attacks or political upheaval can also shake those who intend to travel.
What is striking is that an event is all the more deterrent the further it is from home. “The farther away the ‘danger’, the larger the space that people consider ‘dangerous’,” says Jürgen Schmude.
“Tourists have short memories”
He cites the terrorist attacks in Paris as an example. “After the 2015 attacks, it took a long, long time before tourists from Asia or America dared to return to Europe, they thought the whole of Europe was dangerous: travelers from countries bordering France had returned. in the country for a long time as vacationers, “said the tourism expert.
Tourists basically have “short memories,” says Schmude. This means that after a relatively short time, the desire to travel overcomes the fear of danger. “But travelers forgive natural hazards more than man-made ones,” explains Jürgen Schmude.
Professor Urs Wagenseil, Competence Center for Tourism of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Urs Wagenseil of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences also points out that it is crucial to know whether this was a one-off event or whether similar incidents have occurred as a result. Many must-see countries have disappeared from the tourist map over the years due to repeated “dangers” or still are: “Tunisia, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Mexico – all have long suffered from the fact that war and terror have always discouraged tourists “, says the Swiss tourist researcher.
“Travel must convey joy, you want to avoid suffering and tragedy. And since there are alternatives for all forms of travel, crisis areas are logically avoided,” says Urs Wagenseil. And you shouldn’t focus too much on one type of attraction. “Anyone who can offer only sun, sand and sea must be aware that local marine pollution can lead to a temporary total blackout,” warns the tourism expert.
Failures cannot be compensated
If travelers stay away, as is now the case in the wake of the war in Ukraine, tourism-dependent countries face difficult times, as compensation for lost earnings is only possible to a very limited extent, if at all. According to the United Nations Tourism Authority, it is in contact with member countries to provide them with the best possible support to overcome the crisis and for a possible realignment of their marketing strategy. Additionally, there are aid programs in some states, but these often only cover part of the losses.
This state of affairs could be changed by attracting new target groups and travelers from other countries. But this takes time and requires financial reserves. However, after two years of the pandemic, both have become a rare commodity in many places.