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2020 Russian Travel Market Development Results: How Tourism Survived the Pandemic



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The year 2020 put the travel industry into extreme conditions and radically changed tourists’ approach for selection of a country to vacate in. At that, the beginning of 2021 has been quite non-specific, too.

In our article, we will look at the results of 2020 and consider perspectives of travel business development in 2021.

2020 Outgoing Flow

In 2020, according to the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, citizens of Russia made a bit more than 14 million trips to foreign countries. This is -71% as compared to 2019 when Russians made more than 48 million trips. Moreover, we should keep in mind that more than half of trips happened in the ‘pre-quarantine’ 1st quarter of 2020—almost 54% of the outgoing flow accounted for the first three months of the last year.

At year-end 2020, Abkhazia took the lead in the number of trips (2.8 million), while the outgoing flow to this country decreased by 41%, as compared to 2019. The second place is taken by Turkey, the leader of the previous year (2.2 million trips, -68%) and the third one is taken by Ukraine (1.3 million trips, -49%). Please note that Russians mostly go to Abkhazia and Ukraine not for travel purposes (but, more often, to visit their relatives).

2020 Tourist Flow Dynamics

The tourist flow in 2020 dropped by 79%. 3.7 million Russian tourists in total went to foreign countries last year, with Turkey remaining the leader of the outgoing flow at year-end.

Source: Fedstat, 2020, ‘000 people

The lowest drop was demonstrated by tourist flows to China (-94% as compared to 2019), Spain (-90%), and Italy (-86%). At that, Top-15 most popular travel destinations among Russians included India (-57%), Cuba (-58%), and the Dominican Republic (-65%) for the first time ever.

Tourist Flow during and after the Pandemic

As the pandemic made substantial corrections to numbers of travelers due to border closures and travel restrictions, the tourist flow to some countries reduced to nothing. Taking into account only last 9 months of 2020 (the period after borders have been closed), Top 10 countries, except for their leader, have changed a lot.

1. Turkey, 1,279,794 Russian tourists

2. Tanzania, 35,061

3. UAE, 30.953

4. Maldives, 17.950

5. Great Britain, 9,360

6. Cuba, 7,428

7. Egypt, 4,496

8. USA, 3,295

9. Armenia, 1,999

10. Abkhazia, 1,939

Source: Fedstat, Q2-Q4 2020

Under the new conditions, tourists began selecting travel destinations in a very different way. Now not everything depends on the tour price and tourist’s preferences. An opportunity to go to a country that is open for Russian tourists, as well as quarantine requirements for foreign comers come to the forefront.

Precisely because of this advantageous turn of events Tanzania (the only one out of Top 10 leading countries) managed to increase the tourist flow from Russia almost 12 times and move up on the second ranking spot.

Another region, for which the 2020 season was not worse than the previous one, is the Maldives. In September 2020, Russia became a leader by the number of tourists in the Maldives for the first time, while in December 2020 70% more tourists came to the Maldives than in December 2019. In January 2021, Russia became a leader by the number of tourists in the Maldives again. According to the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, the tourist flow from Russian increased by 67.4% (as compared to January 2019) and equaled to 20,973 tourists.

Russia’s Business Tourism in 2020

The number of business trips in 2020 decreased by almost 64%. The lowest drop out of Top 15 was demonstrated by flows to China (-91% as compared to 2019), Korea (-84%), and Germany (-79%). The only country with positive dynamics was Ukraine—the flow of business trips there from Russia increased more than twice.

Source: Fedstat, 2020, ‘000 people

Expos Going Back?

On January 22, the Moscow Government permitted to reopen exhibitions. In this regard, the largest spring travel exhibitions, or MITT-2021 and Intourmarket, will go offline.

The international travel show MITT will take place in Crocus Expo on March 16-18. Intourmarket will take place in Expocentre on the Krasnaya Presnya Street on April 1-3. This year, Russian regions will quite obviously be main participants of the expos.

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About the Author

Head of Digital, editor-in-chief of the RMAA Agency Blog

Author Yulia Vasilyeva

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