As Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine, its shockwaves are increasingly affecting countries in the Middle East, even beyond the grain shortages and the rising cost of food that’s had officials worried thus far.

Now, more than a month since Russia launched its initial attack on Ukraine, bilateral sanctions, airspace closure and supply-line cutoffs are causing food, energy and fuel markets around the world to go haywire, resulting in rampant inflation. At the same time, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict is taking a toll on the global tourism economy, disrupting normal travel patterns and spending, and some countries are destined to take more of the impact than others.


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As cradle to some of humankind’s most ancient civilizations and home to several of the world’s most glamorous modern-day metropolises, the Middle East has a strong tourism offering. Such cities as Dubai, Cairo and Istanbul are consistently ranked among the world’s top ten tourism hotspots. And, a goodly portion of the region’s international visitors usually consists of Russian and Ukrainian leisure travelers.

According to a CNN report, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are three destinations that are typically the most popular among Russian and Ukrainian tourists. Egypt and Turkey’s tourism industries have said they’re already feeling the negative effects of the war, while analysts anticipate there are worse losses yet to come.

A 2020 Colliers International study found, that, after Germany, Ukraine provided the second-largest source market to Egypt in pre-pandemic times, with Ukrainian trips to the North African destination nearly doubling in 2019 compared with the previous year. When flights to Cairo resumed in July 2021, following its COVID-19 lockdown, Ukrainian tourists were the first to return to the destination, according to Egyptian deputy tourism minister Ghada Shalaby.

Russian tourism to Egypt also swelled to 700,000 visitors in 2021, after Moscow lifted its 2015 ban on charter flights between Egypt and Russia. Since Russian and Ukrainian tourism is shut down, Egypt’s tourism ministry is focusing on attracting travelers from other countries, with marketing campaigns targeting Western Europe and Arab nations for the upcoming travel season. “It is a big hit…but we are trying to survive,” Shalaby told CNN.

Aswan, Egypt
The Nile River at Aswan, Egypt. (photo via Avanti Destinations)

A policy fellow at the Tahrir Institute of Middle East Policy, Timothy Kaldas, weighed in with his analysis, saying, “A dramatic replacement of tourists from those two countries is probably unlikely.” He added, “They already have a constellation of challenges that this war is just making worse.”

2021 also saw Russia become the second-largest source market to Dubai, according to data from the Arabian Travel Market (ATM). Pre-Ukrainian invasion, the ATM had predicted that the Russian market for the UAE would contribute more than $1 billion within the next four years.

A report from global market research company Euromonitor International revealed that Russia accounted for one percent of outbound tourism spending in 2021, which amounted to US$9.1 billion.

The company’s Travel Forecast Model found that, due to the current collapse of Russian and Ukrainian tourism, “global inbound tourism will be impacted by US$6.9 billion in 2022, resulting in a potential loss of 0.9 percent.” Its forecast also projected that this will weigh down tourism potential through 2026, although it also noted, “everything depends on how long a peaceful solution takes to broker.”


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