MOSCOW – The Ukraine crisis and Western sanctions have cut deeply into the number of Russians travelling to Europe this summer, the government said on Wednesday.
“The fall ... has hit 30 per cent following the deterioration in our international relations,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a government meeting on the tourism industry.
“That is bad news because it is our citizens who are paying the price as well as the economies of countries who welcome tourists,” said Medvedev.
Growth was already slowing but the threat of painful Western sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis sparked massive capital flight and pushed Russians to hold off making big purchases, bringing the economy to the brink of recession.
The government has had to deal with helping bring home tens of thousands of Russian tourists stranded abroad as a number of tour agencies collapsed amid dropping sales. “The situation in the tourism sector is not easy, that's clear, but it would be incorrect to speak of a major crisis,” he said.
But that is just how the head of Aeroflot, Russia's flag airline, described the situation recently. Vitaly Savelyev said that the fall in demand was unprecedented since the global economic crisis in 2009.
According to the government around 40 million Russians, more than a quarter of the population, travel abroad each year.
Government data showed travel to central and northern European destinations had suffered the worst drops, but had picked up to warmer southern destinations.
The government did not release data on foreign tourists visiting Russia, but officials told AFP last month that unofficial data showed it was down by about a fifth.