Industry Players Feedback
Aeroflot stopped selling tickets for international flights and ceased cooperation with Aviasales
Aeroflot has suspended online reservations to international destinations until August. This decision was made to reduce the additional burden on Aeroflot contact center and sales offices in connection with new rebooking cycles. Pobeda, a low-cost airline subsidiary of the Aeroflot Group, has stopped all flights until May 31.
Both Aeroflot and Pobeda have stop selling tickets through Aviasales, Russia’s largest air tickets metasearch platform, as the companies did not manage to agree on the commission fee. According to Aviasales, they will disconnect these airlines from the “Quick Booking” service, which allows tourists to buy tickets directly on the Aviasales website. However, it is still possible to find Aeroflot and Pobeda flights in Aviasales search results and buy the tickets on agencies' websites or directly on the airlines’ websites. This is part of new focus by Aeroflot to promotion purchases through their own channels such as their official website and social media networks.
The owner of S7 Airlines announced the timing of international flights resumption
According to the owner and chairman of the board of directors of S7 Group Vladislav Filev, international air traffic will only be fully resumed in April 2021. "Self-isolation measures has reduced the number of people getting infected with COVID-19 which means that we will not get collective immunity and there might well be a second wave of the epidemic. Therefore, I think that world aviation will begin to recover in a year," he said.
To maintain the volume of air traffic of 2019, the Russian aviation industry needs a state support of $5 billion. However, he noted that the probability of allocating such an amount is "close to zero." Without state support, passenger flow will halve by the end of the crisis - from 120 million to 60 million passengers a year.
So far President Putin has proposed allocating $309 million to support Russian air carriers who have been seriously affected by the spread of coronavirus infection.
Some Russian tour operators stop sales until the end of July
Some large Russian tour operators have stopped sales of foreign tours until August 1, this includes leading companies such as Pegas Touristik and Coral Travel. Due to significant uncertainty with the development of the situation, the beginning of August may not yet be the final date. According to experts, these measures were taken by tour operators in order to avoid repeated re-bookings. The launch of outbound tours can be adjusted to both earlier or a later date, as the situation develops.
At the same time, other tour operators are still stick to their plans for foreign travel including: TEZ Tour and TUI Russia, which plan to sell both foreign tours and domestic packages from June 1.
Biblio-Globus offers travel to most foreign destinations from May, including Italy. The exceptions are Spain and Montenegro, which can be booked only from June. The UAE, India, and Tanzania are not available. However, many travel agencies are still cautious about the May dates of Biblio-Globus tour packages.
When planning travel programmes, tour operators and their affiliates are often guided by Aeroflot flight schedule, according to the General Director of a retail agency network Pink Elephant. This is the clearest indicator of the real situation, and since the national carrier plans to resume international flights not earlier than August, other airlines do not intend to choose earlier dates.
Tour operators put hopes on domestic tourism
For this summer season, Russian tour operators have put their hopes on domestic tourism, namely Sochi and the Crimea. The General Director of Intourist believes that ‘if the situation with coronavirus follows a positive scenario, the domestic tourism market could open in June-July. International tourism is more likely to recover in autumn and winter.' The expert also noted that travel agencies and hoteliers will have to cut prices in order to stimulate customers.
Intourist has already opened the sale to Sochi with the charter flight company AZUR Air from 5 cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kazan, and Ufa) from June 1st till the end of October. Intourist has become the 4th tour operator launching the charter programme to Sochi in addition to the traditional Biblio-Globus programme on Rossiya Airlines and Red Wings from Moscow and the regions, recently announced ANEX Tour charter programme on AZUR air from Moscow on June 1st, and TUI Russia on Ural Airlines from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ufa.
Demand for travel after the coronavirus
As reported by the General Director of Intourist, “not all families with children will go on vacation this year, many will prefer to stay in the countryside or at home. As a result, the target audience will change; there will be a shift towards younger people under 30, who are less likely to accept travel restrictions. The product should adapt to these new conditions and offer more city breaks and short sightseeing tours. More people will choose locations that can be reached by car”.
General Director of TUI Russia is confident that if the border in Russia are lifted before the end of the summer season, they expect a two- or even three-fold increase in sales, as a result of deferred demand. This scenario is real even against the background of a significant decrease in household incomes.
Feedback from tour operators
MTC Group start to develop new destinations such as the UAE, Greece and Russia and are now running a series of webinars promoting beach destinations including: Mallorca, Ibiza, Corsica and Sardinia (S7 announced the flight program to Sardinia from July, 4 times a week). MTC has received requests for beach destinations for September. They are open to receive special offers from hotels, which should be attractively priced and with a flexible cancellation policy (24 hours prior to arrival). In general, MTC is quite optimistic and hope to get 30-40% of the last year’s volume in September-October, but it mainly depends on when the Russian borders will be opened, and the international flights will start their regular flight programmes.
The Moscow office of Panorama Assistance has stopped sales activities for the agents until mid-May as they believe that by that time the real situation with coronavirus in Russia will be much clearer. Panorama Assistance in Kyiv remain very positive and believe that once the borders are open, they will immediately start getting requests. Their clients are ready to travel and just waiting for the “green light”. Other main luxury travel agencies in Kyiv gave the same feedback.
Aspire Lifestyle, a concierge services, reported that some clients plan their vacations for August, however most of them are planning New Year trips. Russian resorts, especially Sochi and the Moscow Region, are already in great demand. For the period of self-isolation, their clients want to go to a forest area or to an isolated area. There has been a large volume of requests for sanatoriums near Moscow, demand already exceeds supply. Most clients have left deposits for future bookings.
As for MICE, UTS reported that their MICE business, as well as sport events and business travel is dead for the moment and they plan to focus on the domestic travel which is their priority for 2020.
Medassist, a medical and wellness travel company, is in a critical situation as the hotels and clinics they have booked, have not yet refunded their money and they may have to consider bankruptcy.
Sletat.ru, an online travel agency retail network, reported that back in March their agents were very reluctant to participate in any distance learning projects and webinars, only 20-30 agents used to register due to the large number of cancellations and huge workload. In April, a significant interest in online training has been observed with large number of agents registering for webinars, depending on the topic. Sletat.ru believes that when the borders and Russian resorts are open, there will be a high demand from the Premium segment and and young couples without children. They believe there will be a reduced demand from middle-class families with children, firstly because the parents will fear for their children’s health, especially if they travel abroad, and secondly, it is the financial reasons.Ђ Back to journal