The Russian-Ukrainian war has a limited impact on holiday bookings in Europe

Travelers booking luxury trips to Europe didn’t cancel amid the war in Ukraine, says travel consultant Jessica Griscavage of Runway Travel. Pictured, Grignan, France.

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As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues with no end in sight, how are Americans’ European vacation plans affected? It depends on who you ask the question, but overall the answer seems to fall somewhere between “not at all” and “a little”.

Travel app Hopper noted a drop in searches for flights to the mainland as early as February, as well as a notable increase in airfares. Yet a travel consultant says she has seen no dip in enthusiasm for European bookings or departures from her clients.

Jennifer Griscavage, founder of Runway Travel, an independent affiliate of McLean, Va.-based McCabe World Travel, has been “very busy booking trips to Europe” despite the war in Ukraine.

“The biggest impact we’ve seen is concern about traveling to any of the countries that share a border with Russia or Ukraine,” she said, particularly among customers booking travel.” on the to-do list” in the Russian port city of Saint Petersburg. as part of a Baltic Sea cruise.

“Unfortunately, cruise lines had to cancel stops in St. Petersburg [so] most of our customers have postponed these departures to 2023,” she added.

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This news is not great for destinations near the conflict zone or bordering Russia or Ukraine, as they had already suffered larger drops in overall visitor numbers due to the pandemic, according to the Commission. European trip to Brussels. The Czech Republic recorded an 81% drop in arrivals last year compared to 2019, followed by Finland at -80%, Latvia at -78%, Estonia at -77%, Slovakia at -76% and Lithuania at -74%. the ETC.

However, the picture may be brighter for destinations further west. Despite “some slight worries”, Europe is “always there” for the largely affluent customers of Runway Travel. “Italy, Greece and France in particular have been very popular,” Griscavage said.

Audrey Hendley, president of Global Travel and Lifestyle Services at American Express, said that although the affected areas are not major destinations for customers, the company matches donations from card members and has donated 1 million dollars to relief efforts and provided 1 million hotel nights to support refugees.

“These are not great destinations for us,” she said. “However, every destination is important, every customer is important.”

Hopper researchers report an impact on search demand, bookings and airfares across Europe in the weeks leading up to and following the Feb. 27 Russian attack on Ukraine.

According to their report “How is the Russian-Ukrainian War Affecting Travel?”, flight searches for travel to Europe (excluding Russia and Ukraine) are 9% lower at expected levels given the pent-up travel demand after the omicron variant surge. The volume of bookings had started to increase from January to mid-February with the drop in omicron, but has now returned to the levels seen at the start of the year.

“It’s not necessarily a big drop,” said Adit Damodaran, price analyst at Hopper.

“That’s just it [searches] had risen at some rate, but now it kind of tapered off and stabilized below what we expected,” Damodaran said.

The invasion appears to have had less of an impact on Hopper’s existing transatlantic bookings than Covid. While around 20% of app customers who had purchased ‘cancel for any reason’ protection with their trips to Europe exercised their right to a refund amid the pandemic, only 15% did. done during the current crisis in Ukraine.

Those who are just considering booking are more hesitant. They are not going to rebook Europe.

Adit Damodaran

price analyst at Hopper

“It could be that a lot of our travelers are going to Western Europe,” Damodaran said. “If they’ve already booked this trip, they might just be like, ‘I might as well keep going.

“But those who are just considering booking are more hesitant,” he added. “They’re not going to rebook in Europe.”

Travelers not making planned European trips are postponing rather than booking other destinations, Damodaran said. “In a more normal year, Europe would represent around 30%, or almost a third, of our bookings [and] it’s now around 15%,” he said.

Flight searches and actual bookings may be down, but airfares are up, Hopper found. Fares to Europe are 16% higher month-on-month. It may seem like a lot, but according to Damodaran, the price of jet fuel rose 70% in 2021 as a result of the pandemic – then 30% again in the first three months of this year alone, rising to 2.86 $ per gallon starting at $2.20, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

“The scale of what we’ve seen since the start of 2022 is huge,” he said. “We expect this increase in jet fuel prices to affect air fares.”

Namely, domestic airfares in the United States have increased by 36% since January 1.

“We generally expect it to be closer to 7% to 8% in a more normal year like 2019,” Damodaran said. Carriers typically bear some of the cost of the more expensive jet fuel “because it eventually affects travellers’ willingness to pay.”

Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and its impact on global energy markets could worsen an already bad situation.

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