Latest Market Insight
1 February 2022
The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for Russian economic growth this year by 0.1% to 2.8% and expects the country's GDP to decline in 2023 to 2.1%. In 2021, Russia had a projected growth rate of 4.5%. This was expected considering the 2.7% contraction in 2020, when it was hit by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia’s rate of inflation accelerated to 8.7% in the first month of the year, while food costs have risen by 11.%. In an attempt to control inflation, the Central Bank has raised the interest rate for the eighth time in a row to 9.5%. Despite the possibility of war, the Russian rouble has started to strengthen, which indicates that business is more or less confident that a conflict can be avoided.
After several days of decline, Russia saw another increase in infections reaching 179,284 new infections on 16 February. Moscow, however, has a positive trend with 11 262 cases on 17th Feb which is 30% decline compared to the past week. The situation in St.Petersburg, remains difficult, with 17 150 new cases today, while the population of the second Russian city is half the size of Moscow.
To make life slightly easier for non-vaccinated Russians, as of Feb 21st those who are recovering from covid will be able to take an antibody test to which will provide them with a health pass with a QR codes which will allow them entry to shops, restaurants and theatres that have been out of bounds since the New year holidays for people who are not vaccinated.
The lack of progress on the mutual recognition of vaccines is likely to be problematic for international travel. Russia expects China to recognize Sputnik shortly and countries likely to accept travellers with Sputnik, even if they don’t recognize it are likely to gain in terms of visitor numbers this summer.
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Russians made 21 413 573 trips abroad in 2021, which is 51% more than in 2020, but still 55% less than in the pre-pandemic years. 40% trips were to the neighboring countries, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan Abkhazia, etc, and the majority of the trips we for business.
As far as leisure travel is concerned, the top five destinations which were open for tourism from Russia in 2021 were: Turkey (4.7 M), Egypt (1M), UAE (0.61M) and Cyprus (0.56 M)/ Together, these countries account for 83% of all outbound leisure travel. Turkey alone accounted for 47% of all outbound traffic to 32 countries opened to Russian travellers.
Destinations that reached the highest growth compared to pre-pandemic Russian arrivals were up-market luxury destinations such as Egypt, where there was an estimated increase of 425%, the Maldives where visitor numbers increased by +267% and the Seychelles with an increase of + 153% compared to 2019. Whilst the most frequently visited tourism destinations, even the market leaders such as Turkey, Greece and UAE received an increase in visitors in 2021, but are still far from pre-pandemic numbers. Traveller numbers to Turkey were 30% down, while Russians going to Cyprus and UAE were 40% down, Greece and Bulgaria were 70% down and Tunisia almost 90% compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
The below diagram shows the leading 20 international travel destinations for Russian travel from Jan to end of Oct 2021 (last Q missing). Former Soviet countries have not been included.
The volume of travel packages booked for the May holidays in 2022, despite the current wave of Covid omicron, has grown by 10 times compared to the same period of the last year, according to OTAs Travelata and Level Travel. Over 60% of the tours are to Turkey followed by Egypt with over 10% and domestic travel in Russia at 9%. According to experts, Russians are ready to travel more, since most of them have either recovered from coronavirus or have been vaccinated and are not so afraid of the new strain
While most of Europe is still closed for Russian leisure travellers (with the exception of those few Russians who went abroad to obtain an internationally accepted vaccination), a number of non- EU destinations including Norway and UK are opening up.
Norway lifted all restrictions from 12 February, and tour-operators already see an increase in demand for individual and group tours to the fiords, fishing tours and city-breaks. Although most of Norway ski resorts are fully booked, the tour operators are positive about spring / summer 2022 and even expect to reach pre-pandemic levels for the FIT individual tours segment.
Aeroflot has regular flights from Moscow, Nordwind opens flight to Oslo from St.Petersburg and more travel companies are considering this destination for the nearest future.
The British Embassy has reported a high demand for British visas since the UK cancelled most of the covid restrictions. Tour operators expect an increase in demand in advance of the May holidays and a long weekend of the Women’s Day holiday of 8 March. Expert from the tour operator BSI noted that due to high deferred demand for city tours to Europe, the UK provides a good alternative to France, Italy and Germany that are still closed to Russian leisure travellers.
According to a study by Aeroclub business travel agency, international business trips increased by 22% in 2021 compared to 2020, nevertheless the sales of international airline tickets for business trips reached only 19% of those sold in 2019. If before the pandemic, 21% of all business trips were international by 2021 that share has dropped to 7%.But in 2021, business class tickets were booked more frequently and accounted for 13% of all tickets sold, up from 9% in 2019.
The most popular outbound destinations for business trips in 2021 were Kazakhstan (-59% compared to 2019), Belarus (-57% compared to 2019) and the United Arab Emirates (-12% compared to 2019). Kazakhstan was the 2nd most important destinations for business trips prior to Covid while Belarus moved to 24th place, and the UAE to 24th position. Uzbekistan ranks fourth in terms of the number of air tickets purchased by business travellers. Turkey lost 74% of Russian business travellers but still stayed in fifth place. Italy moved from fourth to sixth place (-78% compared to 2019), while Armenia moved up, losing only 56% of Russian business travellers. 9% of business travellers went to France in 2021 whilst Germany stayed in the top 10 but was in 1st place. Since the pandemic Germany has lots 96% of business travel visits from Russia
There is a growth in demand for premium class tickets for international flights which grew to 13%, this only accounted for 4% of flights within Russia. Only 33% of business travellers used 5* hotels for international travel.
Cyprus: Russia and Cyprus have resumed to their pre-pandemic regular flights schedule. Also charter flights will resume with Azur Air charters preliminary scheduled from 23 April
Hungary: flights frequency from Moscow to Budapest increases from 7 to 14 times per week, and from 4 to 7 times per week from St.Petersburg.
Greece: there will be over 20 more flights per week to Greece, including direct flights to Corfu, Mykonos, Thessaloniki and Athens from Moscow, St.Petersburg and Ekaterinburg.
Germany: there will be an increase in flights from Kaliningrad to Berlin 6 time per week and Dusseldorf 5 flights per week.
Belgium: Brussels Airlines will reopen flights on seasonal basis to Moscow (SVO) and St. Petersburg (LED) during the Summer season.
According to Raiffeisen Bank survey, 51% of respondents have reduced their spend on travel. 21% replaced resorts with countryside holidays to save on travel costs and 25% have started to travel by car more often.
28% haven’t changed their spending patterns and 21% have increased their travel spend, due to significant price increases and additional costs related to covid tests.
According to ATOR survey of 2391 respondents, 22% of respondents said they would like to go to vaccination trip abroad in order to travel to Europe. 3% said they are already vaccinated with the EU-approved vaccine or got a booster in Europe. 24% they are waiting for Sputnik to be approved by the WHO and EMA, 9% don’t want to take a foreign vaccine. 43% refuse all vaccinations.
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