Latest Market Insight
15 July 2020
Deputy Prime Minister announced the date of the resumption of international flights
According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, Russia may consider the resumption of international flights with those countries that meet certain criteria.
The first and main criterion will be the principle of reciprocity: those countries that are ready to receive Russian tourists will be considered first. There are also three epidemiological criteria that have been developed. The first is the incidence of COVID-19 in a foreign country, which should not be more than 40 infections per 100 thousand population within the last 14 days. In addition, the average daily increase in new cases over 14 days should not exceed 1%. The transmission rate should also be below 1.
Instead of a two-week quarantine for foreigners entering Russia, a COVID-19 test result taken up three days before arrival will be required. However, for Russian passengers returning to Russia on repatriation flights, the 14-day quarantine will remain, unless they take a COVID-19 test before their departure or on arrival.
Russia will open international flights in two stages
The Coronavirus Virus Prevention Operational Headquarters has agreed with the Ministry of Transport, Federal Air Transport Agency and Aeroflot to open international flights in two stages.
For the first stage of flights openings, Russia's consumer watchdog proposed the following countries: the United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Finland, as well as Vietnam, China, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. According to Russia's consumer watchdog experts, these countries fully comply with the criteria for assessing the epidemic situation that the department developed itself.
According to tourism experts, the proposed countries appears to be at odds with the principle of reciprocity, which implies those countries will also have to be open to receiving Russian visitors. The proposed countries do not comply with this principle. China is not yet ready to accept Russians, and the EU countries have not yet added Russia to their green list. However, the EU is reviewing the list of permitted countries on July 15 and every 14 days onwards.
The Ministry of Transport identified Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Vladivostok as the first hubs for international flights.
Earlier, the Federal Air Transport Agency informing the airports and airlines of the extension of the ban on entry of foreign citizens into Russia till 31st of July. This is not connected with restrictions on the outbound flights of citizens from Russia: since June, Russians with dual citizenship, Russian residence permit, and with special categories of visas can leave the country for treatment and work.
Russians will be able to go on vacation to the most popular destinations no earlier than late September
According to the Executive Director of the Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR) Maya Lomidze, flights to the key tourist destinations are unlikely to open earlier than late September or October.
“It is extremely unlikely that flights to any tourist destinations will resume before the end of July, while August is also highly unlikely. The most optimistic scenario now is the end of September or October”.
It should be noted that flights to the key travel destinations in Southern Europe, including Turkey, we believe will only resume at the end of September and October. This includes those countries that have been among the five most popular tourist destinations over the past decades. Although Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as the United Arab Emirates, Israel are also the priority, the forecasts are not clear so far. The pessimistic forecast is December.
The Government allows the issuing of vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled flights
The Government issued a decree allowing airlines to issue vouchers to compensate for cancelled flights, rather than to return the money for airline tickets. According to the decree, the carrier can unilaterally change the terms of the contract or implement this in case of an emergency or when Russia is in high alert mode.
The airline company must refund the cost of the ticket for canceled flights within three years, if the passenger does not use the voucher during the period.
Three patterns of Russian tourist behavior
During the pandemic downturn, Russian tourists demonstrate three different behavioral patterns that the tourism industry should consider when planning marketing activities, ATOR Executive Director Maya Lomidze said.
The first group of tourists are desperate to break free for travel anywhere for a vacation after a period of quarantine. This can be a budget trip to the seaside or to any accessible resort, a camp site, a country hotel, a trip by car to a nearby region. Safety issues for this rather large group of tourists is not that important. These people are not impacted by the feeling of danger of the virus, but the absolute priority for them is an affordable price.
The second group of tourists give more importance to the safety, but also impacted by the price of the trip due to their budget restrictions. People from this group will purchase a tourist product only if it fits into their budget and there is also visible evidence of safety.
The third group of tourists is the premium segment who definitely consider the issue of safety more seriously. During the period in which the borders have been closed, there was still a demand from this segment that created an unusual situation which has resulted in luxury accommodation facilities on the Russian Black Sea being 100% booked until the end of September.
However, it is difficult to identify the size of each group, but ATOR analysts estimate that it is approximately 40/40/20%
How Russians manage to travel abroad
Many Russians have found a way to get to a European resort, despite the closed borders. Some tour operators offer flights on private jets to certain destinations. A weekly tour, for example, to Cyprus will cost €20.5 thousand for two. The most budget option is Montenegro which costs €1.5 thousand per person. The first plane with Muscovites landed there on June 29. The next group of tourists was expected on July 2. As for the EU countries, Russians can legally travel there by private jets if they have a permanent residence permit in the country where they are travelling.
Russians can drive to Belarus and they can fly to Turkey via Minsk (Belarus), as well as other destinations with direct flights, as Belarus did not implement a lockdown.However, in this case a number o restrictions is also applied: the Russians should have a Belarusian passport or residence permit, or book a stay at a health resort in Belarus.
Is there any deferred demand in tourism?
Most Russians really want to go on vacation, but after the corona-crisis, not everyone can afford it. This is seen in the results of the Tutu.ru travel service survey published on July 2. According to the study, 50% of respondents noted that they had spent all their savings and had no money left to travel this year. 19% have sufficient money to travel just around their local region, 15% put aside holiday money and wait until international travel is resumed, 8% do not have to save money for holidays as their salary is enough to afford travelling, 4% have already planned their trip and have bought flights and booked a hotel, 3% are so tired of self-isolation that they are ready to take a loan to go on a holiday somewhere.
Since the purchasing power of the Russians population has fallen, the effect of deferred demand may not be as global as the tourism industry expected, tourism experts say.
The situation is aggravated by a new trend, last minute purchases. Everyone is afraid that the situation will change again, and they will not be able to go on a pre-paid holiday; therefore, lead time is very short.
Egypt welcomed TEZ TOUR tourists from Minsk
On July 4, for the first time, TEZ TOUR flew tourists from Belarus to Hurghada, Egypt. In addition to Minsk, the TEZ Tour will also run flights to Hurghada from four additional Belarusian cities from mid-July. A charter programme to Sharm El Sheikh is also scheduled from 5 Belarusian cities in July.
In addition, a charter flight from Belarus to Antalya, Turkey was launched on July 1, with 183 passengers on board.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian tour operators offer Russian travellers flights to Egypt, Turkey and Albania via Belarus. As Russians can leave the country only for specific reasons, including medical treatment abroad, the Belarusian tour operators offer Russians to stay at Belarusian sanatoriums so that they can get permission to travel to Belarus, and after that they fly to Egypt, Turkey or Albania on a charter flight.
Montenegro allow tourists from Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to enter the country
On July 7, Montenegro updated the list of states allowed to enter the country without additional restrictions. It includes Belarus, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia. Russia is not yet on the list. Belavia launched its first charter flight to Tivat on July 10. The main “blocks” are reserved by the local tour operators such as Aerotravel, Time Voyage, Rosting, Intercity, TUI Belarus. The seats were completely sold out in just one day. The cost of a weekly tour for two starts from 830 euros.
Kazakhstan re-introduced quarantine due to coronavirus for two weeks
A two-week quarantine was reintroduced in Kazakhstan on July 5. The authorities took the measure because of the worsened epidemiological situation and the increase in the number of COVID-19 infections. Restrictive measures will remain for another 14 days with the possibility of an extension.
As for transportation, the country suspends bus service between the regions, and public transport is limited. Air traffic between the regions continues, as well as with other countries.
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