Dubai: UAE residents are rethinking their European trips as the Russia-Ukraine conflict adds a layer of uncertainty to air travel.
Visa demand for Europe has taken sharp drop in the days since February 24, which is when the crisis in Ukraine erupted. According to a spokesperson at Green Apple Travel, the travel agency processes about 20 Europe-bound visa applications a day now compared to 50 earlier.
The travel agent said that Italy, Switzerland and France were among the top choices for travellers. “Visa application is not open for some countries and will only be made available by March-end.”
Several countries in Europe have opened up their borders and lifted travel restrictions in recent weeks amid falling COVID-19 cases.
Steady on rates
A one-way ticket from Dubai to Paris can cost around Dh4,000, while Amsterdam comes in at Dh3,000. A flight from Dubai to Zurich costs above Dh2,000. London, an enduring popular destination from Dubai, costs around Dh1,700.
Athens’s flights are now at around Dh2,000, while some carriers like Wizz Air Abu Dhabi are offering tickets on the route for less than Dh500. Even with uncertain demand, airfares will be on the higher side as oil prices stay above the $100 mark. Apart from higher fuel costs – the largest fixed expense for airlines – operators are also facing higher airport charges.
Some travel agents said demand will properly return during the summer, especially after Ramadan. “The next extended break will only be after Ramadan and there are many enquiries for that time,” said Suraj Ramesh from Al Badie Travel Agency. “For the spring break, many are going to Greece as Central European destinations are pretty cold and it is slightly easier to get a travel visa.”
For those looking for a stay in popular European cities, hotel options are still yet to reach peak capacity. “European hotels are not completely operational - they are running on 60-70 per cent occupancy because of staff shortages,” said Ramesh.
Global cancellations peak
The day after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, every booking that was made for travel to Russia was outweighed by six cancellations of pre-existing bookings, found ForwardKeys, a travel analytics firm.
The source markets exhibiting the highest cancellation rates, in order of volume, were Germany (773 per cent), France (472 per cent), Italy (152 per cent), the UK (254 per cent), India (285 per cent) and Turkey (116 per cent).
The crisis also triggered a collapse in the market for Russian outbound travel. Destinations that suffered the highest immediate cancellation rates, in the period February 24–26 were Cyprus (300 per cent), Egypt (234 per cent), Turkey (153 per cent), the UK (153 per cent), Armenia (200 per cent), and the Maldives (165 per cent).
“The outbreak always has a hugely damaging impact on the travel industry,” said Olivier Ponti, Vice-President - Insights, ForwardKeys. “That is what we are seeing here, with mass cancellations in flight bookings to and from Russia.
“The Russian tourism economy was beginning to revive from the pandemic, and it will now experience another substantial blow.”