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Tourist destinations gear up for summer without Russian visitors
Athens, Greece – Key European tourist destinations are set for a summer season largely without Russian visitors amid sanctions over the war on Ukraine and actions taken by Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to punish countries that have imposed sanctions against his country. On April 4, he suspended aspects of a 2006 visa facilitation agreement between Russia and “unfriendly” members of the European Union that have imposed sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
The following day, Putin issued a travel advisory urging Russians not to travel to “dangerous” European countries. He suggested they instead go to India, Turkey, Sri Lanka and other countries that have refused to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or to impose sanctions.
Yet, in Greece, many hoteliers and the government remain upbeat about tourism’s prospects.
“At our hotel, Russians have been replaced by customers mainly from the UK market,” says Manolis Elpidis, general manager at the Atlantica Caldera Palace in Crete. “The season has started very well. If it continues at the same pace, and other obstacles don’t crop up, business will easily reach 80 percent of 2019 levels,” he says.
That is the target set by the Greek government, based on the fact that tourism last year rebounded to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
n Greece, Russians accounted for only 0.8 percent of arrivals and 1.1 percent of receipts last year, Bank of Greece data show.
“Greece is a destination that’s in very high demand. In many countries it is the preferred destination,” Sofia Zaharaki, deputy tourism minister, told Al Jazeera. “We are seeing that there is a diversification of nationalities which means we have more incoming tourism from other countries.”
Greece is not only seeing arrivals that approach those of pre-pandemic levels; it is seeing a rise in revenue.
“There’s a 27 percent increase in average spending per trip in 2021 compared with 2019. Some people may not have travelled [in 2020] due to the pandemic, and may have had more money in savings, so we’ll have to see if that’s a continuing trend,” says Zaharaki.