First there were fears that the Crimea might be attacked at any moment by Ukrainian long-range missiles as part of the looming counter-offensive and now there is no water after the Nova Kakhovka dam was destroyed. Russians have spurned the previously much-loved semi-tropical peninsula as a holiday destination this year with reservations falling to only 1% of normal holiday bookings, The Bell reports citing tourist agency Ostrovok.ru’s numbers.
The peninsula's share of hotel and vacation rental bookings has dropped to 1% year on year. The main reasons for this decline are the limited transportation accessibility after airports were closed, and the Kerch bridge bombing on October 8 last year that links Russia’s mainland to the peninsula remains in the background.
Recognising the inevitable failure of this tourist season, Crimean authorities have pledged state support to the industry. Meanwhile, it appears that tourists who have chosen to forgo trips to Crimea are redirecting their plans towards Sochi and other cities in the Krasnodar region, also traditional holiday destinations, where there is a surge in demand for vacation rentals.
According to Ostrovok.ru, a booking service, Crimea's share of hotel and vacation rental bookings for the summer has plummeted to 1% this year, down from an equally disastrous 3% last year after the war in Ukraine started. Prior to that the Crimea led the way with a 19% share of bookings. Similar data from the "Sutochno.ru" booking service confirms the decline, indicating that Crimea accounts for only 3% of summer bookings when considering daily apartment and house rentals.
Traditionally the southern Black Sea cities of Yalta, Sevastopol and Feodosia have been popular destinations for tourists in Crimea. However, even in these cities, rental prices for summer accommodations have dropped by 7-8% due to the low demand, while Russian resorts overall have witnessed a 15% increase, according to Sutochno.ru, The Bell reports.
The low demand for vacations in Crimea is further supported by a survey conducted by state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), which reveals that the percentage of Russians planning to spend their upcoming vacations on the peninsula has fallen to the level seen during the pandemic year of 2020 of 5%.
In contrast, as reported by bne IntelliNews, Turkey is bracing itself for a surge in Russian tourists this summer: more than 7mn Russians are expected to vacation there, up from the usual 4mn-5mn that visit the country every year.
The situation in Crimea has been made even worse following the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam as locals report that the water quality is already noticeably worse only one day after the facility was blasted apart.
Market participants noted that even Crimean residents were travelling less outside the peninsula due to limited transportation options, primarily opting to explore destinations within their region, reports The Bell.
Kommersant reports that many tourists perceive Crimea as an “unsafe destination,” according to market participants interviewed by the publication in early May. Since then, the situation has become even more dangerous as fighting in Ukraine has spilt over into Russia proper in the last weeks. There are now regular reports of downed Ukrainian drones inside Russia and the arrival of evacuees from the Belgorod region.
The Crimean authorities are offering state support to the industry of over RUB2bn from the budget to ensure that hotels can provide their employees with a minimum wage in the absence of tourists.
As tourists who have chosen to skip Crimea this year appear to be turning their attention to Sochi, demand for hotels in that city has reached a five-year high. Sochi accounts for 15% of all bookings in Russia for this summer. Anapa and Gelendzhik in Krasnodar, which has a climate similar to France, are also experiencing high demand. Overall, the Krasnodar region has captured nearly a third (28%) of all bookings this year.
Additionally, there is an increasing demand for vacations in Dagestan and the Rostov region in southern Russia. Naturally this has led to a significant increase in prices for vacation rentals in these areas. In Sochi, the average cost of accommodation has risen by approximately one-third compared to last year, while in Gelendzhik, it has gone up by a quarter.