Countries that rely on Russian tourists anticipate travel hit as war continues

Gas prices latest roadblock to road trips, travel plans

FOX Business’ Jeff Flock reports from Pennsylvania, where spring break travelers face surging gas and hotel prices.

As the Russia-Ukraine war nears its fifth week, countries that have benefited from Russian tourists are worried that they’ll have yet another tough year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on Turkey, Cuba, Thailand and Egypt in the last two years, but visits from Russian travelers helped to ease the blow, the Associated Press reports.

Now there’s a monumental decline in Russian tourists as the country calls residents home and war-related sanctions hurt the ruble – Russia’s official currency.

A clothing shopkeeper Belek, Turkey, waits for clients in a deserted tourist shopping area on Saturday, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Riza Ozel)

"We’re trying to earn our bread through tourism, but it looks like the war has finished off this (tourism) season, too," said Devrim Akcay, a Turkish clothing shop owner in Belek, in an interview with the Associated Press.

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Similar concerns are shared in Cuba despite the country’s friendly relationship with Russia.

The Associated Press reports that 6,000 to 8,000 Russians were vacationing in Cuba’s popular beach resort town Varadero when the war broke out on Feb. 24, 2022, according to data from the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.

Many of those tourists boarded flights back to Russia in early March. Reuters reports that Russian travelers in Cuba cut their vacations short after it became clear that western nations were closing airspace to Russian aircraft in response to the war.

"Losing that market is a strong blow to Cuba," Natasha Strelkova, a Russian-Cuban tour operator and guide in Varadero, told the Associated Press.

Varadero is a tropical peninsula in Cuba that’s become a popular vacation destination for Russian tourists. (iStock)

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In 2021, Cuba welcomed more than 146,000 Russian tourists, which is equal to nearly a third of Cuba’s annual visitor tally, the Associated Press reports.

Russian tourists reportedly spend $765 a year when vacationing abroad, according to tourism data published by WorldData.info – a global economic analytics resource.

FOX Business reports that the Russian ruble hit a record low in early March due to global sanctions. Russian stocks have only started to gain in the last week as the Moscow Exchange resumed trading. 

The slight increase in value might not be enough to get Russian tourists to vacation the same way they did before the war.

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Tourists lounge under umbrellas along Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, Friday, March 11, 2022. Thousands of Russian tourists are stranded in Thailand’s beach resorts because of the war in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Salinee Prab)

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the deputy governor for International Marketing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told the Associated Press that he believes the devaluing of the ruble could lead Russian tourists to shift their sights to all-inclusive accommodations that have "better prices."

Before the war, Thailand reportedly saw an influx of Russian tourists during its winter season when the country reopened to foreign visitors after its COVID-19 lockdown.

In Egypt, the Associated Press reports that Russian and Ukrainian tourists make up to 35% of the country’s annual tourism numbers, according to a statement provided by Hisham el-Demiry, who’s a former head of Egypt’s Tourism Development Authority.

"The war has changed people’s priorities, and tourism, which is a very sensitive industry, will be the first victim," el-Demiry told the Associated Press.

Russian and Ukrainian tourists reportedly make up to 35% of Egypt’s annual tourism numbers. (iStock)

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That sentiment appears to hold true when factoring in the responses highlighted in various travel surveys.

A recent survey published by The Vacationer states that 40% of Americans are reconsidering their 2022 travel plans due to the war while nearly 36% feel less safe traveling since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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