Tourism collapses in Russia following western sanctions

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The number of foreign tourists visiting Russia collapsed last year due to the impact of Western sanctions imposed on the country following its military operation in Ukraine and strict COVID-19 restrictions in China, industry professionals said Thursday.

Only 200,100 foreigners visited Russia in 2022, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) said, citing figures from border services, a drop of 96.1 percent from pre-pandemic years.


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“The reasons are clear: the closed skies between Russia and the vast majority of European countries, as well as the impossibility to use foreign-issued Visa and Mastercard cards in Russia,” ATOR said.

Most of Europe closed its airspace to Russian planes a few days after the Kremlin launched the Ukraine offensive in February 2022.

Beginning in March 2022, Russian national carrier Aeroflot suspended its international flights, though it gradually resumed travel to “friendly countries.”

But draconian COVID-related restrictions in China that Beijing only recently abandoned kept Chinese tourists from taking advantage of the situation.

Before the pandemic Chinese tourists were the top visitors to Russia, accounting for around 30 percent of the 5.1 million total.

In 2022 only 842 Chinese tourists visited Russia.

The number of international tourists in 2022 was even lower than in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the country recorded 335,800 and 288,300 visits in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Tourists from Germany, Turkey and Iran topped the 2022 rankings.

Even if 25,400 German tourists visited in 2022, this still represented about 20 times less visitors than in 2019.

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