Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Ukraine war flattens Eastern European tourism

Robert Besser
10 Aug 2022, 21:51 GMT+10

WARSAW, Poland: Julie, who preferred not to give her full name, booked a group of trips to Warsaw last year, and has now visited Warsaw four times in six weeks, and admits to having fallen for the city.

"It is a fascinating place with so much history," she said, as quoted by CNN.

However, not every potential traveler feels the same way, and not only does Poland share a border with Ukraine. However, pictures of refugees crossing the border had a devastating effect on Poland's travel industry.

At the end of March, Poland's deputy minister for sport and tourism, Andrzej Gut-Mostowy, told media that cancelations from foreign visitors were up between 30 and 40 percent due to the Ukraine war.

This trend can be seen across the whole of Eastern Europe. Tour operator Last Night of Freedom, which arranges bachelor and bachelorette parties throughout Europe, saw bookings to Krakow collapse by 60 percent for summer 2022.

The company's founder, Matt Mavir, noted, "I think when the invasion started, people were hearing about bombs close to the border, and now they have that image in their head," he told CNN.

Poland is not the only country affected by the war. Last Night of Freedom says that its bookings to Budapest, Hungary fell by 45 percent and to Riga, Latvia by 39 percent.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian Tourism Agency's figures show a 37 percent drop in tourists to the country in the first six months of 2022, compared to 2019, while Slovakia's tourist board said foreign visitor numbers from January to May plummeted by 49 percent, compared to 2019.

The situation is even affecting countries that do not have a border with Ukraine. Liina Maria Lepik, director of the Estonian Tourist Board, said that half of the 350 cruise ships scheduled to visit Tallinn in 2022 have been canceled "as a direct effect of the war," as reported by CNN.

However, there is some better news. Two countries in the region have seen increases in tourist numbers. Moldova, which borders Ukraine, saw more foreign visitors in the first quarter of 2022 than pre-pandemic, from 31,000 non-resident tourists in 2019 to 36,100 in 2022, while Lithuania,
which borders Russian allies Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, says by June visitor numbers were at 88 percent of 2019 levels.

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