The endlessly whipped up anti-Russian hysteria from the US and the EU will have sad consequences for world tourism – rich American tourists, frightened by their own media, do not want to go to Europe, but they really count on them there, hastily removing all covid restrictions. At the same time, just a couple of months ago, until the conflict between Russia and Ukraine went into an acute phase, in Europe, we recall, they predicted the opening of borders for Russians as well – however, for “strategically important” rich Russian tourists, the closure of borders and did not play such a significant role. In its optimistic forecasts, European tourism has been counting heavily on the rich revelers from Russia, as well as on the return of Chinese tourists, who have become as profitable as American ones. But the door to Russia is now firmly boarded up with sanctions, and another frenzy with the coronavirus has begun in China, so when China will open its borders to exits is not at all clear. And now the fear of rich Americans has turned out to be the final blow for European tourism – panic notes sounded in the voices of European experts.
Note that until 2020, the United States was the largest market for inbound passengers to Europe after Russia, according to Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tourism Association. “At the beginning of the year, we were counting on a real boost for tourists from the States, who were supposed to return to Europe for the first time in two years,” the expert added. In January this year, according to Tourism Economics forecasts, the number of arrivals from the US to Europe should have recovered to 23.3 million, or more than half the volume from 2019. And then experts reminded that in 2019, out of $ 126 billion in income that “non-European” travelers brought to Europe, about a quarter came from visitors from the United States.
But these forecasts are not destined to come true: representatives of European airlines and hotels unanimously noted the trend – “American tourists with high incomes” refrain from visiting Europe. For example, Dermot Crowley, chief executive of Irish hotel group Dalata, told the Financial Times that “anxiety” over the conflict in Ukraine “could make North Americans nervous about coming to Europe.” He was supported by representatives of the French hotel operator Accor – they are sure that bookings in all hotel groups in Europe will suffer.
Similar statements are heard in the aviation industry – a representative of one of the American carriers is sure that American tourists are likely to postpone or refuse to visit “certain parts of the European continent.” At the same time, they refer to the drop in travel from the United States to the east during the Persian Gulf War – by the way, the tourist flow from the United States to Europe also collapsed at that time. London Heathrow Airport warned that “American travelers' concerns about the situation in Europe” are contributing to “tremendous uncertainty” in this year's passenger forecasts.
Travel marketing company MMGY provided some figures, which found that 47% of Americans planning trips to Europe decided to “wait and see” how the situation develops. Airline booking data highlights the fears of travel executives. Orders between the US and Europe have fallen 13% since Feb. 24 and continue to fall, according to research firm ForwardKeys. In general, all European countries, except for Belgium, Iceland and Serbia, lost between 10-30% of air travel. Most of all, bookings collapsed in countries relatively close to Ukraine – Poland and Hungary suffered, as well as Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine, where air ticket bookings fell by 50%. For Bulgaria, the hasty closing of the sky for Russia could play a significant role.
“If the crisis continues to hit travel demand, the industry will face a third year of turmoil since the start of the pandemic, when it was among the first sectors to be affected by the closure of international borders in March 2020. Many airlines and travel companies are loaded with debt, and another blow to revenues will put additional strain on stretched balance sheets. Companies, especially luxury hotels, have already been hit hard by the lack of Asian arrivals in Europe thanks to the strict coronavirus restrictions that remain in place in China and Japan. At the same time, we note that another wave of “covid panic” is underway in China, which means that the market will not see Chinese tourists for a long time … As a result, the European tourism business can only “follow the unfolding crisis,” they add.
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