Latest Market Insight

22 March 2022

ECONOMIC UPDATE

Russia’s economy faces being plunged into a fresh economic crisis after Russia’s invasion to Ukraine on February 24.  As a result, Russia has been hit with unprecedented economic sanctions. The Central Bank’s western assets up to 40% of its $630 billion international reserves have been frozen, many key Russian banks can no longer use the SWIFT financial communications network which means they cannot receive or send money internationally. Also access to international capital markets has been frozen. The country is facing significant capital outflows, a currency crisis and surging inflation, and analysts say the looming economic crisis could be the worst since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Total number of restrictive measures imposed on Russia since 2014 and after February 22, 2022 as of March 9, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the sanctions against Russia by the US, EU, UK, Japan as well as key global actors, more than 330 companies have announced withdrawal or suspension of activities in Russia. The measures include temporary suspension of operations or closing of their offices as well as permanent exit from the country. This list includes some of the most renowned companies at a global level.

The impact on the Russian unemployment rate is not yet felt as laid off employees are paid their salaries for 2-3 months as part of their severance payment. In addition, a large number of mainly highly qualified young professionals have exited the country. Their presence in the countries such as Armenia, Geogia, Kazakhstan and Israel will provide a new impetus for the economic and professional development of those countries.

To stabilize the country’s financial markets and to avoid further capital flight, Russia hiked its interest rates to 20%. Nevertheless, the value of the rouble has tumbled since the end of February. A month ago, the Russian rouble traded at around 76 to the dollar and 85 to the euro. As on March 19, the rouble was 37% weaker against the dollar at 103.95 and fell by 35% to 114.39 to the euro. Moreover, there is a large gap between the price of buying and selling foreign currencies, suggesting a high demand for it, as individuals and companies try to remove their investments out of the country.

TRAVEL INDUSTRY NEWS

February and March 2022 marked a deep reduction in Russian outbound travel. Destinations that suffered the highest immediate cancellation rates in February were Cyprus (300%), Egypt (234%), Turkey (153%), the UK (153%), and Maldives (165%). According for ForwardKeys, before the military activities broke at the border of the two countriesRussian outbound flight bookings for March, April and May, had reached 32% of pre-pandemic levels, with some holiday hotspots doing exceptionally well. Mexico had been leading the way with flight bookings 427% ahead of 2019 levels. It was followed by the Seychelles 279% ahead, Egypt 192% and the Maldives 115%.

The outlook for travel during the summer months, July and August, was also significantly stronger, than the previous 2 years with destinations such as the Seychelles and Egypt significantly higher than 2019.

For some of the countries mentioned above, such as the Seychelles, the Maldives and Cyprus, Russian arrivals represent a high percentage of all international arrivals. So, a collapse in Russian travel will have damaging consequences on their tourism-dependent economies. Among the long-haul destinations that will suffer most are the Seychelles 16% and the Maldives 15%.

Destinations available for Russian travellers in March

The number of flights of Russian airlines abroad has sharply decreased due to sanctions risks but tours abroad are still available. Tourists can buy tour packages with flights on board of foreign airlines.

The Association of Russian Tour Operators analyzed offers from key Russian tour operators in 27 outbound destinations, where tour packages are based on direct or connected flights of foreign airlines and therefore do not bear "sanction" risks.

Apart from the CIS states (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Uzbekistan), among the most frequently requested destinations are Turkey, Egypt, UAE, the Maldives, the Seychelles as well as European destinations such as Greece and Serbia. The more long-haul destinations of the Middle East and Asia are Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia as well as less visited destinations of Kenya, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal and South African Republic.

EU states issuing Schengen visas for Russians

Several countries of the Schengen Agreement have announced the suspension of issuing new visas for Russians, they include the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. Norway is unable to receive new applications or residence permits due to the payment issue with credit cards, but other EU countries and the UK continue to issue tourist visas.

As on March 1, the Italian Visa Application Center started to accept visa documents for tourists, this was after a long closure related to Covid. Greece also still accepts visa applications. The Hungarian visa centre continues to function in Moscow, but have stopped accepting applications in the visa centers in Kazan, Samara and Ufa.

Some countries renew visas that expired during the pandemic or issue new visas to applicants vaccinated with vaccines approved in the EU. Spain continues to renew visas that expired during the pandemic. France allows those with long-term multiple entry visas to extend them for Western accepted vaccinated applicants. Germany only extends visas issued for two or more years.

The top 20 destinations with the most dependency on Russian tourism

The key countries that will be most affected by a prolonged conflict between Russia and Ukraine based on data from air capacity and the number of seats on scheduled flights from Russia for the next six months are shown below.

Source: Marbrain technology 

As the graph shows, the country with the most scheduled flights and seats from Russia is Turkey, with nearly 2 million scheduled tickets for the next six months, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Germany (other countries mentioned in the survey are also relevant for leisure travel).

Turkey and to a lesser extend Greece are two important tourist destinations in Southern Europe and are more dependent on the Russian market than other destinations.

Increased frequency on the Helsinki – St. Petersburg high-speed train

The Finnish operator of Allegro trains from Helsinki to St. Petersburg started operating twice a day with around 700 passengers per day since early March, due to high demand.  70% of the passengers are Russian citizens.

AVIATION NEWS

Russian airlines suspended most international flights

Since March 5, most international regular and charter airlines from Russia have suspended, this is because the fleet of the major carriers such as Aeroflot and S7 are made of leased aircrafts. These leasing agreements were terminated as part of the sanction process. In order to avoid ending up with no aircrafts for either international or domestic travel, the government decided to break the leasing agreements and keep the airplanes they cannot fly abroad as they risk " aircraft impoundment while they are abroad".

Airlines that suspended international flights:

  • S7 Airlines — from March 5;
  • Smartavia - from March 5;
  • Nordwind Airlines and PegasFly - from March 7;
  • Royal Flight - from March 5;
  • Aeroflot, Rossiya and Aurora - from March 8;
  • Pobeda - from March 8;
  • AZUR air - from March 8.

The following Russian owned airlines will continue to make limited international flights to a limited number of destinations:

  • Utair - to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Armenia;
  • Red Wings - to Armenia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan;
  • Azimuth - to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey;
  • IrAero - to Armenia and Uzbekistan;
  • Ural Airlines - to Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

Which foreign airlines still fly to Russia?

Despite most international flights by Russian carriers being suspended, Russians can still travel internationally using a limited number of foreign carriers. As of March 10, the direct flights are available to 15 destinations, mainly Middle East, including flights Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco, Iran and Sri Lanka. Air India is expected to reenter the Russian market in the near future.

Due to the cancellation of insurance policies for airlines flying to Russia, the national airline of Azerbaijan, AZAL has suspended flights from Russia since March 5, as has the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, Air Astana. EgyptAir has also suspended flights from Cairo to Moscow as well as the Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines.

After initially increasing it flight capacity to Moscow, Air Serbia has since decreased capacity and tickets can only be purchased through ticket agents or tour operators, since online payments with Visa and Mastercard are not possible with the bank card issued by a Russian bank. This, along with Turkish Airlines, are the only airlines connecting Russia with Europe.

Saudia airlines also intends to start flying to Russia in 2022.

In addition, the airlines of local CIS countries will continue to fly to Russia, the most well-known ones being Scat (Kazakhstan) and Uzbekistan Airlines.

As a result of the reduction in flights, Moscow Sheremetyevo has sent 40% of its staff (7,000 people) on furlough, as well as closed several terminals.

MEDIA UPDATE

Media censorship and social media usage update

In February 2022, Meta blocked Facebook pages of Russian state-owned media RT and Sputnik in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) as a reaction to Russia’s military invasion to Ukraine . On March 4, 2022, The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) banned Facebook for discriminating against Russian media. It also blocked Twitter, demanding that the platform removed false information about the military attack.

A few days later, Russia announced Meta an extremist organization and banned its activity in the country after Facebook and Instagram permitted posts with violent appeals toward Russians in relation to the war reports.  As a result of Facebook and Instagram ban by Rospotrebnadzor in March 2020 the Russian audience decreased by 16 % for Instagram (estimates around 39, 1 mln daily users) and by 40 % for Facebook. At the same time the users migration to VK and Telegram was reported, both platforms recorded around 300k new users per week since March 4, 2022.

TRAVEL AND AVIATION NEWS FROM THE BALTIC STATES

TUI Baltics impacted by EU sanctions

The shareholder of TUI tour operator Alexei Mordashov who was recently sanctioned by the EU has impacted TUI in the Baltic States as it is the same owner. As a result, flights run by TUI in the Baltic States have been cancelled. The TUI branch in Latvia canceled flights to Egypt a few days before departure. The Lithuanian charter airline Get Jet Airlines announced the cancellation of flights of TUI Baltics to the resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada and suspended the sale of tours to Turkey and Crete.

The Latvian Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators said that other travel companies were not impacted.

Tourism in Baltics is recovering, but prices are rising

As Covid restrictions are lifted, it will become easier for travelers to visit other countries, and tour operators have noticed an increase in business with the number of bookings growing. In particular, Vanilla Travel said that almost all packages available for the school holidays in March had been sold out. Latvians are also actively booking packages for the coming summer and autumn. FlyMeAway travel agency noted that there are still fewer destinations offered than before the pandemic and that prices are increasing.

airBaltic adds flights to Malta, Yerevan, Baku and Batumi

Latvian airline airBaltic announces that it plans to launch new scheduled flights between Riga and Malta, Yerevan (Armenia), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Batumi (Georgia).

During the upcoming summer season, airBaltic will also continue to offer flights from Riga to Dubai and Tenerife.

airBaltic continues to offer the best connectivity to and from Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, connecting them with leading European business centers and transit hubs. In addition, airBaltic offers a wide variety of leisure destinations from Riga, Latvia.

airBaltic leaves Russian market

At the same time, airBaltic announced its decision to leave the Russian market until further notice and cancel all of the planned flights to and from Russian destinations as part of the sanctions imposed on Russia.

OTHER NEWS FROM KAZAKHSTAN, AZERBAIJAN AND GEORGIA 

Kazakhstan

Italy lifts restrictions for Kazakh travellers. The Embassy of Italy in Kazakhstan started to issue tourist visas again from March 1, they are required to provide a vaccination certificate or PCR test for entry.

Popular air routes among Kazakhstanis in 2021. The Kazakhstan online booking ticket platform Aviata made an analysis of Kazakh travel trends last year. In 2021, passenger traffic increased by 156% mainly due to the easing of Covid restrictions and the increased flight capacity in the summer. The top 5 outbound destinations for international travel were: Uzbekistan, Turkey, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and the United Arab Emirates.

Kazakhstan resumes flights with the UK. The Air Astana flight connection to London from Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) restarted on March 12 and will operated two times a week using an Airbus 321 LR. From February 11, unvaccinated Kazakhs can enter the UK, as long as they have a negative PCR test prior to and on arrival. The UK has recognized the 8 vaccines available in Kazakhstan.

Flights from Kazakhstan and Qatar to increase. From March 8, Qatar Airways increased the number of flights from Doha to Almaty from 2 to 3 flights per week. From March 19, an additional forth flight was added to the schedule.

Kazakhstan resumes flights to EgyptSince the beginning of March, Air Astana, Fly Arystan and SCAT will resume flights to the Egyptian resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh from the cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Atyrau, Aktobe, Uralsk and Kostanay.

Air Astana suspends all flights to RussiaOn March 11, Air Astana suspended all flights to Russia due to termination of insurance coverage for commercial flights from/to the Russian Federation and over its territory. Meanwhile, SCAT increases the number of flights to Russia.

Azerbaijan

Aviation news. Baku launchesdirect flights to Sharm el-Sheikh from March. The flights will start to operate once a week, and then will be increased to twice a week. The Latvian airline airBaltic is resuming flights to Baku from May 1. Flights will be operated twice a week.

Tourism statistics. Since January 2022, the number of Azerbaijani citizens traveling abroad increased by 3.2 times compared to the same period last year and amounted to 89.6 thousand people. The number of people visiting Russia increased by 5.6 times, Iran by 3.6 times, Turkey by 2.6 times, and Georgia by 2.5 times. Of all citizens traveling abroad, 39.4% visited Turkey, 25.8% - Russia, 8% - Georgia, 9.7% - Iran, 17.1% - other countries.

Georgia

Greece opened for Georgian tourists. Greece will finally open its borders to Georgians for tourism purposes, which has been closed since the pandemic. Georgians need to be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test to enter Greece.

Ukraine

Emirates introduced a visa regime for citizens of Ukraine. On March 1, the United Arab Emirates introduced visas for Ukrainian citizens, thus, temporarily halting the operation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments which involves the mutual abolition of visa requirements.

 

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