2022, global tourism looking to recover? Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to worsen as outbreak continues

It was supposed to be a year of recovery for a tourism industry hit hard by the new crown epidemic, but the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict appears to have added instability to the sector. Once again, airlines and tour operators are being forced to prepare for closed airspace, canceled outbound travel plans and more.

Analysts believe that the conflict-induced increase in energy prices and forced flight detours will push up the cost of travel, and the large outflow of refugees may also complicate the prevention situation, prompting European countries to tighten restrictions again. And some regions, especially in Eastern Europe, tourism will be constrained by security factors.

2022, global tourism looking to recover? Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to worsen as outbreak continues

↑File Photo. Intrepid Travel says European travel sales will drop significantly in the short term.

In addition, Russia itself is a larger source country, and with a large number of Russians cancelling their plans to travel abroad in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, this will have a greater impact on some regions that are highly dependent on tourism.

Airspace closures will drive up flight costs as fares and risks 'scare off' consumers

So far, more than 30 countries have reportedly closed their airspace to Russia, and Moscow has responded in kind. Russia's Civil Aviation Agency announced that as of March 2, Russia had closed its airspace to airlines from at least 37 countries. Airspace in Ukraine, Moldova and parts of Belarus also remain closed.

Analysis suggests that the airspace closure will mean flight cancellations or route diversions in the short term, but the long-term impact on tourism could be more far-reaching. For one thing, with the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the recent sharp rise in international oil prices, fuel costs will make any type of travel more expensive. In addition, the rerouting will cause airlines to pass on more of their costs to consumers.

2022, global tourism looking to recover? Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to worsen as outbreak continues

↑Infographic. Rising fuel costs will jack up passenger tickets, and fear of conflict will lead to lower demand for travel.

Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline, said detouring to Asian routes would cost millions of euros more per month. Lufthansa Chief Financial Officer Remco Stenbergen also told the media in the company's earnings update that the company would raise fares to offset higher fuel prices and other costs.

But it's not just the cost that's holding back tourism recovery. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has warned that civil aircraft flying near the Ukrainian border are at "high risk". The airspace of Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova are currently on the risk list.

EASA remains vigilant about the airspace alert zone around Ukraine in case any aircraft are at risk of being hit, according to the report. 2014 saw Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur shot down over the U.S. East after the Ukraine crisis, killing 298 people on board.

"Destinations close to the Russian periphery are likely to be affected, as consumers will certainly take security into account." Olivier Ponti, vice president of ForwardKeys, a global travel analysis firm, said. "The U.S. travel market could also be greatly impacted, especially with Eastern European travel. (The conflict) could also deter Americans from traveling to Western Europe, although the impact would be relatively small."

Conflict masks new crown outbreak, refugee crisis may cause European countries to step up epidemic prevention

With the new crown outbreak still unsettled, and the influx of refugees triggered by the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict could complicate the epidemic prevention situation in many European countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the number of infections in Ukraine may surge due to the harsh conditions caused by the unrest. And the UNHCR estimates that some 1.7 million Ukrainian refugees have already left for other European countries.

With the influx of refugees into neighboring countries, the outbreak in those refugee-receiving countries will likely be affected as well. And in Ukraine's neighboring countries, Eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania are still plagued by the Omicron variant of the virus, according to foreign media reports.

"Any time millions of people are on the move, infectious diseases take advantage of the opportunity to spread faster." said Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program. "People are huddled together, stressed, not eating and not sleeping well. They're vulnerable, starting with getting infected themselves. And the virus is more likely to spread widely."

2022, global tourism looking to recover? Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to worsen as outbreak continues

↑A large number of Ukrainian refugees arrived in the Polish border city on March 5.

Travel agencies have previously called on governments to lift travel restrictions associated with the new crowns, hoping that the spread of vaccinations will return people's lives to "normal". But analysis suggests that, given the current situation, these European governments are unlikely to ease travel and quarantine restrictions, which would put pressure on the tourism industry, given the public health problems that could be caused by the influx of refugees.

Highly tourism-dependent cities to be hit hard by sharp drop in Russian travel

According to the Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR), more than 10.1 million trips were made abroad from Russia in 2021, of which 46.5 percent, or nearly 4.7 million, were to Turkey.ForwardKeys' previous forecast analysis said that Russian-driven tourism revenues will continue to rise in 2022 as its latest data showed that Russia's March to May outbound flight bookings have recovered to 32 percent, with Turkey, the UAE, the Maldives and Thailand being the most booked destinations.

ForwardKeys data shows that Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Armenia and the Maldives saw the highest "immediate cancellation rates" between Feb. 24 and 26 alone. The company said that the absence of Russian tourists will be a major blow to these countries, which are highly dependent on tourism.

Although Russian flights can still land in countries such as Turkey, Thailand and Egypt, Russia's economic outlook has tourism agencies in those countries worried. As the Russian ruble plummets to new lows due to Western sanctions, the devaluation of Russians' savings will prompt more people to cancel their trips. Even if some Russians still manage to travel, it will become more difficult to use globally recognized credit cards abroad. In addition, the World Tourism Organization has said it plans to hold an emergency executive council meeting to decide whether to suspend Russia's membership.

"In the short term, European travel sales are really going to be soft," said Matt Burner, managing director of outdoor tour operator Intrepid Travel North America. "Customers are calling in seeking reassurance that their travel will not be affected and asking about our flexible booking policy." Analysis indicates that the range of uncertainty created by the conflict is making people think twice about their existing or future travel plans, and that an already fragile tourism industry in some regions will have to be forced to hit the pause button again.

Red Star News reporter Ding Wen

Editor Zhang Xun

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2022, global tourism looking to recover? Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens to worsen as outbreak continues