The partial mobilization announced on September 21 provoked a boom in demand for tours and tickets abroad. Travel agents admit that they work around the clock and have become for their clients not just managers, but personal psychologists and conscription specialists at the same time. “Profile” found out what is happening in the tourism market, which was the first to take a hit after the announcement of mobilization, and assessed the prospects for holidays for the New Year.
Half a million for a ticket to Dubai
“All our phones are torn, managers work 24/7. A lot of panic. And this panic is associated with cancellations, and sometimes for no reason, simply because it’s scary to go, ”says Diana Ferdman, head of the Belmare travel company.
The first signs of panic in the tourist market began to appear the day before. It was then that the media announced the appeal of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And although the topic of the speech was not known, potential tourists tensed up. “We had applications that customers refused to pay, they say, first we will listen to what Putin has to say,” a representative of a major tour operator said on condition of anonymity.
About 2,000 cars are waiting to cross the Russian-Georgian border in North Ossetia
After the partial mobilization was announced in Russia on the morning of September 21, the tourist market began to stir. “People swept absolutely everything – tours, tickets. The number of requests for departures for the next three days has increased significantly,” says Dilya Demidenko, head of the tours department of the travel aggregator Travelbelka.ru. The hype led to an unprecedented rise in prices. The cost of air tickets with a departure for the next three days rose literally before our eyes. Following them, the prices for tours also flew “into space”.
“For example, a tour for two to Egypt now costs from 300 thousand rubles. And this is not the best hotel, and the food is only breakfast. The day before yesterday it could be bought for 80 thousand rubles for two,” Demidenko gave an example.
As for tickets, in the first few hours after the president’s address, they were completely sold out for almost all the most popular destinations – Istanbul, Dubai, Yerevan, resorts in Egypt. And this despite the fact that prices have increased significantly: tickets for the next dates to Istanbul cost from 120 thousand rubles, and to Dubai – about half a million (491 thousand 977 rubles – this is how much a ticket to Dubai from Moscow costs on September 23 with a flight on September 27. For earlier dates, the correspondent of “Profile” did not find tickets in the UAE).
Even sea cruises are snapped up. For example, all the cabins on the cruise from Sochi to Turkey, departing on September 24, were purchased literally overnight. The price for this trip has risen from 88 thousand rubles per person to 140 thousand.
As long as you can leave
Oil was added to the fire by the orders of the military commissars of some Russian regions, who forbade all men subject to mobilization to leave their place of residence. After that, a new flurry of calls fell on travel agents: will the borders be closed? will they let me out? and I have to go to serve?
“All the clients called and asked if they could go … As if I were a military registration and enlistment office,” Natalia, an employee of the travel agency, described the situation in the professional chat of travel agents “Roof of TurDoma”.
The degree of tension was slightly reduced by the statement of the head of the Ministry of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, that the mobilization will affect only 1% of the people in the reserve. In addition, students will not be called. And on the evening of September 22, the defense department finally issued clarifications in which they named the criteria for men subject to mobilization: privates and sergeants under 35 years old, junior officers under 50 years old, senior officers up to 55 years old are subject to conscription. Also, the Ministry of Defense assured that one of the main factors is the presence of combat experience.
Rostourism has denied the restriction of trips for Russians by the Russian authorities
Late on the evening of September 22, the situation was further defused by the head of the Federal Tourism Agency, Zarina Doguzova. In her telegram she wrotethat “based on the information that we currently have, if you have not received a summons, then you can go on trips. We don’t have information about any restrictive regulations at the federal level.”
This slightly reduced the panic in the market.
“When the news about partial mobilization appeared, we felt a decline in bookings by about 25%, but already yesterday (September 22) the situation has more or less returned to normal, applications are coming in,” Anna Filatovskaya, director of advertising and PR of the Russian Express tour operator, assured. According to her, tourists now have certain concerns about the possibility of leaving the country in the future. “Some tourists try to clarify the actual costs incurred in case of possible cancellation of tours, but for the next dates they usually amount to 100%, so there are few cancellations in the end,” says Filatovskaya.
The head of the Travel company Pavel Neon notes that tourists have taken a wait-and-see attitude: “There are no cancellations in my company, but there are partially prepaid tours, according to which tourists are still thinking about what to do next. They are waiting to pay the tour in full or not. But the mood seems to be positive.”
At the same time, travel agents and tour operators assured that all their clients were able to freely leave the country. True, at some airports, judging by the messages in the telegram channels, the departing men were still asked additional questions: did they serve or did not serve, is there a return ticket, etc. Because of this, the time for passing border control has increased.
Congestion also formed at the land borders, primarily at the Russian-Georgian one. They say that the queues at the checkpoint “Upper Lars” stretched for tens of hours.
Refusal to mobilize will not be grounds for applying for asylum in Finland
A kilometer queue of Russian citizens and on the border with Kazakhstan. For example, one citizen of Russia in a conversation with a correspondent of the portal tengrinews.kz informedthat at the point of entry to Kazakhstan on the way from Saratov to Uralsk it has been standing for 13 hours.
They leave “on the ground” and to far abroad countries, primarily to Finland. The border service of South-East Finland reported on Twitter on September 23 that the number of Russians arriving in the country doubled in a week: if on September 15 2874 Russians crossed the border, then on September 22 – 5959 people.
However, against the backdrop of partial mobilization in the Russian Federation, Finland decided to significantly restrict the entry of Russians and the issuance of visas. According to the Finnish radio station YLE, this issue was discussed on Friday at a meeting of the Foreign Policy and Security Committee under the President and Government. The restrictions are caused by “serious damage to the international prestige of Finland.” Finnish authorities will announce specific measures later.
People with iron nerves
Nevertheless, already a day after the start of mobilization, clients began to contact the travel company to book vacations abroad for longer dates. “We have new requests, active, not related to urgency, but these tourists are also monitoring the situation,” says Pavel Neon.
“Even during the panic, there are tourists who buy tours for November, for the New Year and plan to rest, no matter what,” confirms Diana Ferdman.
But to predict now what prices will be for the New Year, when the hype subsides, and in general – whether we will be able to travel abroad – no one dares to travel on the tourist market. Professionals advise potential tourists to relax and monitor the situation.
“Is it worth doing anything at the moment if you already have a tour booked? My answer is no. You need to act as the problem arises, and not try to prevent it in conditions of turbulence. There are currently no travel restrictions. All those who have purchased tours for these dates successfully leave. As for the rest, for example, on New Year’s Eve, it is not worth panicking and canceling the reservation now, it can always be done later,” Pavel Neon is sure.
“It makes no sense to be nervous and cancel something, especially on New Year’s Day, because taking into account all the possible actual costs incurred – and they are usually 100% for New Year’s tours – you will not return anything in case of cancellation” , adds Diana Ferdman.
Dilya Demidenko predicts that in a week the wave of bookings “for now” and interest in flights in the near future will decline.