Tourist buses in front of the Opéra Garnier, in Paris, on February 22, 2018. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP
“Do you remember those dozens of tourist coaches near the Opéra Garnier? Today, you see a lot less, don’t you? A guide present in France since 1994, Sergueï Pankov has, unsurprisingly, lost a large part of his clientele since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. from Vladivostok [en Sibérie]. People from the middle classes, retirees for example,” he explains.
Followers of organized trips, this clientele has now disappeared, giving way only to upscale, even extremely wealthy individual tourists. “Sometimes they go down to the Shangri-La [hôtel parisien de luxe] , to rent a private boat at 800 euros for a one and a half hour cruise with champagne on the Seine, knowing that it is 5,000 euros with dinner”, explains Mr. Pankov. The Opéra Garnier, the Louvre, Versailles: they treasure the great classics. “We discuss geopolitics, but I’m careful, because there are divided opinions, and our goal is to discuss culture, history, not to do politics. Sometimes, he adds, some inquire beforehand about the risk of possible attacks against Russian speakers.
The war did not completely dry up Russian tourism in Western countries, even if it changed its appearance. With the sanctions, and the closure of the European air sky to Russian companies and the private jets of the oligarchs at the end of February 2022, these travelers must now stop in Istanbul, Belgrade, Yerevan, Podgorica or Dubai, if they want to reach the European Union (EU).
More detailed examination of visa applications
“Coming from Russia today is expensive, extremely expensive, and takes much longer,” confirms Sveta Azur, originally from Central Asia and guide in Nice. As a result, his clientele, like that of other professionals, is essentially made up of Russians living in the EU, London, Israel or the United States, generally with two passports or a residence card. “About 90% live in Europe and 10% come from Russia,” she explains, also noting the presence of Ukrainian tourists. What confirms Vladimir Yatsko, Belarusian guide for forty years in Paris: “The week [du 8 mai]a couple came from kyiv to escape the war and rest,” he says.
Read also our 2022 article: Article reserved for our subscribers The Côte d’Azur is preparing for a third summer without Russian tourists
The conflict has redistributed the cards according to budgets, but also geopolitical affinities. Within the EU, since September 2022, the examination of visa applications for the Schengen area has been more detailed. According to the French Ministry of Tourism, which refers to estimates by Oxford Economics, the number of Russian visitors to France, which was around 310,000 people in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, was only to 99,300 in 2022.
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