How will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect international tourism?

Last Friday afternoon, as Russian tanks rolled toward the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, a reader named Elizabeth asked me: “How do you think the current events will affect your holiday plans for the weekend? future?”

We’ve come to a time when the Ukrainian people are being brutally attacked by a vast nation intent on destroying democracy, when talking about the holiday might be inappropriate for you.

Even so, I believe it makes sense to analyze the consequences for international travel of Vladimir Putin’s gratuitous attack on a neighboring country – while acknowledging that the great pain of the Ukrainian people is the main concern of the world.

In the short term, some of the effects of the Kremlin’s brutality are obvious: airlines flying between Europe and Asia are having to make longer routes.

Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from dozens of countries, including all members of the EU, in response to sanctions targeting the country’s aviation sector.

That impact has been muted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as normal flights connecting London with Japan, China and South Korea, for example, have been greatly reduced – or operated in a similar manner to the flight. mine last week from Heathrow to Tokyo, a Japan Airlines operated “code sharing” by BA.

More significant is the sudden spike in oil prices. Fuel makes up a large part of any airline’s operating costs, and while most are well “insured” – with fuel forward contracts at a fixed price – if oil stays at high, that will affect the price of airfare.

Before summer, however, the main impact could be on tourist confidence – as Elizabeth’s question suggests.

“It is too early to speculate on how the situation will affect trading in the coming weeks and months,” said Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive officer of Advantage Travel Partnership.

“We will have to see how much of an impact these latest events have on consumer confidence – but let’s not forget how Covid restrictions have curbed international travel demand. Travel agents remain in the best position to help consumers manage any changes that may occur to booked travel plans. ”

A former BA executive, who did not wish to be named, cited the 1991 Gulf War, for comparison.

He told me: “Saddam Hussein’s threat to international air travel following his defeat in the first Gulf War has severely affected bookings.

“However, Putin largely views his ongoing dispute with Ukraine through the lens of a domestic problem for Russia, thus unlikely to threaten the broader global tourism market.”

But Robert Boyle, former chief strategy officer for British Airways, explains the different effects: “We’ve known since the Gulf War that war can cause travel disruptions even in regions unaffected area. US and Japanese tourists avoid Western Europe due to its ‘close’ location to Kuwait.

“Ukraine is located in Europe, and so is likely to cause greater concerns about travel in the region. Turkey and Eastern Europe appear to be particularly affected. ”

Which brings me to the second part of Elizabeth’s question: “We’re going to have a holiday in Croatia in September, but are we going to go ahead with our plans?”

Personally, I wouldn’t book a September holiday in Croatia or anywhere else right now: partly due to all the turmoil in the world, but mainly because I believe there will be plenty of capacity. outside of school summer vacation.

A counter-argument is that we all need something to look forward to, especially when the world is looking so bleak, and an end-of-year summer break in the Adriatic sounds like work.

In light of the truly frightening fact that Ukraine is still affected by conflict, I should point out that the capitals of Croatia and Ukraine are almost 1,000 kilometers apart, and these two countries are separated by Serbia and Hungary.

However, the fact that we are having to consult maps to assess possible threats shows just how far-reaching the impact of Putin’s evil warming is.

I appreciate that the saying “wait and see” is not particularly helpful advice to Elizabeth or to millions of other prospective travelers.

But in these dark days, that is my considered conclusion. How will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect international tourism?

Fry Electronics Team

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