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Russian staycations leave hotspots hard-hit

Tourists swimming in the pool at the Kremlin Palace Hotel in Antalya, Turkey in front of an exact replica of the Moscow History Museum.
Mustafa Ozer | AFP | Getty Images
Tourists swimming in the pool at the Kremlin Palace Hotel in Antalya, Turkey in front of an exact replica of the Moscow History Museum.

A dramatic decline in Russian travel has left former vacation hotspots like Turkey and Egypt hard hit, but analyst forecasts suggest that the outbound tourism slump may have hit its lows.

Geopolitical rifts and economic woes have cut Russian tourist figures dramatically over the past two years, with outbound trips dropping by over 10 million to 31.8 million between 2013 and 2015, according to preliminary estimates by Euromonitor.

Former globetrotting Russians have had to grapple not only with double digit inflation and floundering ruble rates that have push up vacation costs, but de-facto travel bans to destinations like Egypt — following the October bombing of a Russian passenger jet from Sharm El-Sheikh — and Turkey, after a fighter jet was shot down by Turkish forces in November.

Unsurprisingly, trips to Ukraine also dropped by over 9 million as Kiev's war with Russian-backed separatists continues to simmer, and Greek financial fears drove down Russian tourist numbers to Greece by over 40,000.

Turkish media this week reported that over 1,300 beachside resorts are now up for sale as security concerns and the Kremlin's ban on package tours to Turkey slows the flood of tourist dollars to a trickle.

The chairman of the Denizli Colossae Thermal, one of Turkey's most popular spa hotels, said a number of hotels in resort towns were left on the brink of bankruptcy after Russia imposed sanctions against Turkey after the latter downed the Russian warplane.

"We have been heavily affected from the jet crisis," Abdurrahman Karamanlıoğlu told Turkish paper Today's Zaman.

"Especially the hotels in Antalya, being closed for the last four months, most of those are on the verge of bankruptcy," he said.

Russian tourists made up 12.2 percent of the 37 million tourists in Turkey in 2014, spending an estimated $3 billion, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development reports.


The drop in foreign travel has delivered a silver lining for domestic tourism though, with local trips up by over 16 million since 2013 to nearly 119 million. But there may also be a light at the end of the tunnel for Russia's favorite international vacation spots.

Euromonitor International's forecasts predict a stabilization, if not minor growth, in overall outbound trips from Russia in 2016, and an increase in travel figures to Greece, Ukraine, most of Europe, and even Turkey — with some tourists replacing banned package deals with independently booked trips.

Wouter Geerts, a travel analyst with Euromonitor International, says the numbers won't necessarily be driven by any substantial political or economic changes, but Russians will simply get used to the realities on the ground.

"Is the Ukraine crisis over? No. Are sanctions over? No, they're not. But for some reason travel is improving."

Geerts explained that for the most part, no news, is good news. "Russians get to grips with it and think it might be ok. Though when you step back and look at it not much has changed, but that's the way the travel industry works," he said.

"It's a very resilient industry."

Tourists play volleyball in a swimming pool at a hotel in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov. 7, 2015.
Mohamed El-Shahed | AFP | Getty Images
Tourists play volleyball in a swimming pool at a hotel in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov. 7, 2015.

Egypt, though, may be the odd one out, with trips still expected to drop by nearly 20,000 this year. It's not yet clear when Russian flights will resume to Sharm El-Sheikh.

But for those more bearish on the prospects of international travel Geerts says Russia's domestic tourism sector, which is expected to see local trips rise from 118 million to 139 million by 2019, is now ripe for investment.

"When you look at the general trend there have been some setbacks, but the economy is improving and you're seeing a lot of money being spent."

"From a hotel point of view, the market is untapped," he said.

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Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that local trips in Russia's domestic tourism sector are seen rising from 118 million to 139 million by 2019.