The travel and tourism industry was among the most suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the inbound sector experienced a significant increase in tours cancellations due to the closing of the border with China, which cost it approximately 100 million U.S. dollars in the first quarter of 2020. In addition, tour operators estimated losses of 31.2 billion Russian rubles from May to September of the year. After the disease started to spread in Russia, the whole industry was forecast to lose over one million jobs in 2020 and 30 percent of small- and medium-sized companies by the end of the vacation season. Ahead of the summer 2020, two thirds of residents planned to go on vacation. Among those whose travel aspirations changed in March and April, one half named COVID-19 as a reason behind cancellations.
Following the collapse of the Russian ruble in 2014-2015, the number of outbound departures from Russia continuously increased since 2016, reaching nearly 42 million in 2018. In line with the national currency’s recovery, the total expenditure of residents on outbound travel increased, reaching nearly 2.5 trillion Russian rubles in 2019. The highest median daily spending of Russians abroad was measured in Italy, both in the summer and the Christmas season. One half of residents preferred to plan their vacations individually, and 45 percent believed that the best travel deals could be found online.
In 2019, Russians preferred to travel within the country rather than abroad. The most popular domestic tourist destinations were the Krasnodar Krai the Republic of Crimea annexed in 2014, both located on the Black Sea. Furthermore, Russia offered medical travel spots like the Caucasian Mineral Waters, the cultural capital Saint Petersburg, and the Lake Baikal for environmental tourism. As for outbound travel, Turkey led the list of the most visited destinations among Russian tourists in 2018, followed by Abkhazia and Finland. A political conflict with Georgia in June 2019 resulted in a flight ban between the two countries.