Ukraine crisis hurts Russian tourism

Foreign tourists are welcomed to Russia with bread and salt.

The flow of foreign tourists drops sharply all over Russia, including Murmansk.


Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict over eastern Ukraine make European and American tourists to rethink their holiday plans, leading to loads of cancellations of bookings to Russia.

About 10 to 15 percent of tour operators’ bookings have been cancelled, according to the Russia Union of Travel Industry, writes The Moscow Times. Main cancellations come from Germany and Britain. In 2013, tourism to Russia grew by nearly 4 percent to 2,7 million visitors, according to figures obtained by The Wall Street Journal from Rosturizm, the state tourism agency. The newspaper refers to figures showing cancellation rates of between 15 to 25 percent recently.   

Foreigners visiting Russia mainly book destinations like Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Northern-Russia is a less developed tourism market, although both Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions in recent years have said the sector is a target area. Ulrich Kreuzenbeck in Murmansk has through his company Flait Group facilitated for both incoming tourism, study-tours and conferences for foreigners to the Russian north for many years. He sees a drop of 3 percent less customers compared with same period last year. That is 10 percent under Flait Group’s budget prognoses for 2014.

“Through my contacts among hotels, carriers and tour operators here, I can say that they see a pronounced decline in tourist travel. There has been a negative trend over a longer period of time, a trend that is now reinforced by the current political crisis,” says Ulrich Kreuzenbeck to BarentsObserver.

He believes high travel costs to remote locations like Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, plus increased costs for visas are some of the reasons why there is a drop in incoming foreigners to the region. Another explanation, according to Kreuzenbeck, is “the bad media coverage Russia has got abroad that curb the interests for activity in Russia.”

Russia Union of Travel Industry says many cancellations are from would-be visitors who, if entering the country now, are afraid of getting caught in the middle of a possible war zone around the Russian-Ukrainian border, often forgetting that Russia is much more than the border areas to Ukraine in the south.