Russian outbound tourism falls to 18-year record low in 2015

Russian outbound tourism falls to 18-year record low in 2015
By bne IntelliNews March 9, 2016

Russian outbound tourism fell to a 18-year record low in 2015 as a combination of terrorist attacks, political punch ups and a collapsing ruble persuaded most holiday makers to stay at home.

Outbound tourism was down 31.3% y/y, the worst fall since the 1998 crisis, according to Irina Turina of Russian Union of Travel Industry (RCT) reports Vedomosti. Last year was the most difficult for tourist agencies since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and scores of companies have gone bust.

Russians made a total of 12,107,000 tourist trips abroad in 2015, according to RCT. The last time tourism fell so much was during the 1998 crisis when the ruble lost three quarters of its value against the dollar; outbound trips that year fell by a quarter (24.4%).

Outbound tourism was already declining on the back of the steady weakening of the ruble before its dramatic collapse in December 2014 following the price of oil downwards. Outbound trips fell 4% in 2014, 15% in 2009, 6.5% in 2001 and 15.6% in 1999.

Earlier Rosstat reported that the total number of trips abroad by Russians was down by almost 20% to 36.8 million trips in 2015. 

The closure of the Turkish and Egyptian tourism markets to Russian travellers, the two most popular destinations, have had the biggest impact.

Russians cancelled trips to Egypt en masse after terrorists linked to Islamic State (IS) blew up a plane on its way back to Russia on October 31 last year. President Vladimir Putin vowed retribution on the terrorists who planted the bomb that killed over 200 people, almost all Russians. Holiday’s from Russia to Egypt fell by 28% in 2015, according to RST.

Egypt's tourism revenue has declined by roughly $1.3 billion since the plane crash in the Sinai last year, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said in a televised interview last week.

Trips to Turkey, which is an even more popular destination hosting some 3mn Russians a year, also saw inbound Russian tourists disappear after the Russian government “recommended” that tour agents cancel trips.

The move was in retaliation for Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian bomber that invaded Turkey’s airspace on the Syrian boarder for a total of 17 seconds. The Kremlin was incensed by the incident and has imposed a raft of economic sanctions in retaliation, including Turkey’s Russian tourism business. The row cost Turkey’s economy some $3bn in 2015 and will cost another $8.3bn in 2016, reports Turkish daily Hurriyet.

Russian visitors to Turkey have been rising steadily from 2.9mn in 2008 to a peak of 4.5mn in 2014 where Russian made 12.5% of all Turkey’s foreign holiday-makers, but dropped off sharply in 2015 to 3.6mn, or an 18.5% decrease y/y, according to Hurriyet.

Russia’s share in annual tourism revenues made up a steady 6% of the total between 2003 and 2008, but after the 2008 crisis it rose to 8.6% in 2014. However, since Russians have shunned Turkey tourism revenues originating from Russia are down an estimated 33%, Hurriyet reports.

Other more exotic destinations, while attracting fewer tourists, have been even harder hit mainly as devaluation have made them a lot more expensive to visit. Among the countries most affected by the fall of the Russian tourist traffic, - Indonesia (-96.6%), Tunisia (-83%), Dominican Republic (-82.5%), Mexico (-66.5%), Morocco (-64 , 4%), Hong Kong (-46%), Thailand (-46%), China (-45.5%), India (-43.7%), the Maldives (-43.7%), Cuba (-43 %). Of the European countries Greece showed the greatest decrease (-48%) falling from third to fifth place in the top ten favourite destinations.

Amongst the countries least affected was Vietnam, which has lost only 5% of its traffic, and Montenegro, which lost only 7% of the Russian tourist flow, probably as it is the only other country on the Mediterranean coast that doesn't require Russians to get visas.