A recent study by students of tourism and hospitality at the 1st Public Institute of Vocational Training in Heraklion, Crete, reveals some negative tourism consequences because of the Russia/Ukraine conflict. “The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on tourist arrivals to Crete” report seems to indicate a minimal impact despite significant booking losses. But what about the long term and the bigger picture? Here’s a look at the bright and dark sides of the issue.
The student researchers mentioned by GTP and other travel pages reportedly reached out to tourism enterprises that are active in the Ukraine and Russia markets. The vocational class also connected with tourism employees, in order to glean more insight into the extended consequences of the war for Crete tourism. Their findings reveal zero bookings from either of these markets, for the following stated reasons:
According to its findings, at the moment there are zero bookings from these two markets for Crete mainly for two reasons:
- The ongoing conflict and migration flows have suspended tourism demand
- Tourism partnerships with Russia have been suspended due to the country’s exclusion from the SWIFT, an international payment system used by financial institutions.
The students also point out how Ukraine and Russia are not prime markets for Crete. The study makes the point also, that the Greek government’s position on the crisis has adversely affected Russian citizens from traveling here. Very few Russian travel agencies even still offer packages to Crete, according to the study.
Interestingly, the research seems to show that cancelled bookings from Russia and Ukraine have had zero effect on Crete’s overall tourism market. While this seems beyond the realm of logic given the fact 300,000 Russians usually visit Greece’s biggest island, the data may show other markets have been marketed to more effectively. Other key findings include:
- Hoteliers facing major losses due to the decreasing accommodation prices (and not bookings losses)
- Predictions for this year’s arrivals from other countries (apart from Russia, Ukraine) appear positive
- Yourism enterprises are looking into other tourism markets (results of the effort are expected to show next year)
- And, arrivals to Crete seem to be returning to normal
Other sources reveal a contrary view given that Crete and Greece are a much sought after destination for Russian tourists. In fact, there has been a major effort in the past to take better advantage of the close ties between Ukraine and Russia, with Greece as a destination in mind. This report from February, days after the conflict began, reveals that Tez Tour, for one, must be hammered right now considering the loss of 100,000 Ukrainians and 125,000 Russians the company expected to deliver to the island. That’s 225,000 customers Tez Tour had to replace in the wake of a pandemic, and a looming economic crisis.
While it seems prudent to point out the positives of stable bookings from other markets, it seems unwise to minimize the farther reaching impacts on Crete tourism because of this conflict. This study from 2015 showed that the Russian desire for Crete and before the Ukraine/Russia crisis which began in 2014, Russian tourists to Greece were 3rd behind Germany, and the UK. And the EU overall, will lose more than 3 million Russian tourists over this crisis. A quote from an earlier report at TRT World brings the real problem into focus:
“To make up for the lack of Russians, the country’s hotel association is actively attracting holidaymakers from other countries, such as Great Britain, Germany and Israel. But most of the citizens of these states seem not to be able to afford holidays either.”
I suppose that a survey of a narrow group of travel agencies and tourism executives will show a certain resilience for the Crete market. What will reveal the true nature of this crisis of Russia/Ukraine outbound tourism will be the bottom line for hoteliers, retailers, resteraunteurs, and homeowners renting their quint village houses on Aibnb. The most recent report from the European Travel Commission, superimposed on the Crete situation, may show Crete’s tourism recovery pushed back to 2025, as well. We’re all happy to report when our colleagues and friends say “things look good.” But looking at niches with a narrow focus has caused us big problems before.
What I’m looking at is the fact that a booking for 10 days in July from Atlanta to Heraklion is 40% higher than it was just a year ago. And I mean flying Iberian Airlines, not Delta. A day and two hours, and $1,500 dollars per person poorer, and my countrymen can enjoy getting to pardise. As for staying, I’ll use a familiar village resort on a picturesque bay as an example. For a stunning breakfast and a pool in Agia Pelagia, 50 feet from an unbelievable beach, two guests only pay $1,800. Lunch and dinner not included, and this price is about double what the cheapest luxury apartment was a year ago. Even here on traditional Crete, everything’s gone up. Where you could have eaten lunch and dinner until you burst a couple of years ago, you pay Paris prices at some venues.
My point is, the very last thing we need to be doing now is underplaying things that dramatically affect us. And particularly those of us here in Paradise. I’ll be surveying my connections in the next days, for another report. Until then, we need this crisis to end through diplomacy and common sense, something that is in short supply these days. I’ll leave you with this. My dearest friend from America, who visited Crete a couple of years ago, will not come this year because the cost is just that appalling. And he can afford any hotel or Airbnb on the island. Big plans have been cancelled for he and I, for some of my great Russian friends, at least one wedding is being held elsewhere. So…
The vocational school study resources here was conducted under the guidance of professors Stavros Papadakis and George Triantafyllou with the support of Director Michalis Grafanakis.