Tourism amid pandemic and last minute deals: What to wait in 2021?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Preparations for the new tourist season begin. Ukrainian tour operators have already announced fresh programs for the spring, and tourists have already started booking trips to hot countries. Moreover, in addition to the standard Egypt and Turkey, the demand for tours to the Dominican Republic, the Emirates, and the Maldives is growing.
10:09, 19 February 2021

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Many of the destinations in the season will delight you with low prices, but only with early booking conditions. The cost of tours closer to the departure date can be an unpleasant surprise. Despite the fact that the sphere is still suffering from coronavirus restrictions, the price of tours is expected to rise from March 1.

Related: About 70 resorts have been stolen from Ukrainians over past three years, - MP

Peculiarities of this tourist season

There has not been such a rapid decline in travel as in 2020 since the Second World War. The number of international tourists has decreased by 70-75%. During the pandemic, more than 200 million people have lost their jobs in the global tourism sector. The indirect losses were even more serious because tourism affects other industries as well. In total, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism sector last year lost $ 1.1 trillion and fell to the 1990 level.

But the tourist sector of Ukraine is a little more fortunate than most foreign ones. According to estimates by various experts, losses ranged from $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion - less than most countries. According to president of the Ukrainian Association of Medical Tourism Violetta Yanyshevska, this was not due to some special crisis management. It's just that the Ukrainian tourism industry is not as developed as in other leading countries: rich Arabs and Chinese, and before the pandemic, our country was not chosen as often for travel as, for example, Europe and America. In addition, in Ukraine, the situation was somewhat leveled by open and relatively accessible Turkey and Egypt.

Experts look at 2021 with a restrained positive. According to UNWTO forecasts, coronavirus restrictions may ease by the second half of the year, so tourism will partially recover by that time. But we will go to the level of the pre-coronavirus 2019 from 2.5 to 4 years.

Travel agents see no prospects for the closure of borders from Ukraine in 2021. And in large Ukrainian cities, a tourist thaw is expected for the current year. In particular, the Kyiv City State Administration predicts that the capital will have half a million more tourists than last year.

And although our country is quite open and does not have serious entry restrictions, there are countries whose citizens simply cannot come to us. This is, in particular, Germany. Today in Bavaria there is a ban on leaving more than 14 kilometers from their place of residence. Therefore, the State Agency for Tourism Development says that in the near future they plan to work with such open countries as Turkey and expand cooperation with the countries of the post-Soviet camp: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Experts pin certain hopes on the introduction of a vaccination passport.

In the meantime, the introduction of a universal vaccination passport from WHO remains at the level of an idea, for Ukrainian tourists it is much more significant how the Ukrainian PCR testing system will work in the future. This applies, in particular, to international scandals involving the use of fake and expired tests by our citizens. While international partners are not sure about the reliability of our tourists' tests, they look at Ukraine with some apprehension.

Related: Strict lockdown in Ukraine to be introduced only as a last resort, - Healthcare ministry

If we talk about the demand for travel in 2021 from the part of the Ukrainians themselves, then it is kept at about the level of 2020.

Last-minute tours are a thing of the past

One of the main consequences of the pandemic is a significant reduction in booking depth. In the context of flexible quarantine restrictions, people are afraid to plan a vacation, which led to a drop in demand for early booking by 10 times compared to 2019.

At the same time, it is the early booking mechanism that is currently the main and almost the only way to save money without significantly losing quality. Especially after the end of the New Year holidays.

Another trend of "coronavirus" travel is the popularity of travel cancellation insurance. Usually, when a client cancels a trip, the amount of refund depends on how long before the tour you decided to cancel the trip, as well as on the specific tour operator. But with the help of insurance, the procedure is simplified and at least 80% of the funds can be returned. It costs an average of $ 17-20.

"Usually the main questions of tourists are: is PCR testing included in the cost of the trip, and also - is it possible to get travel cancellation insurance. Many people ask to include it in the price, even when the agent simply did not have time to offer it," says Yulia Solodovnik.

Due to the growing use of remote work practices by employers, tour operators predict even greater demand for stakes (from the English stay - to stay, vacation - vacation). The main request of such tourists concerns Bali. The share of short-term trips in this direction is decreasing, since in Bali, upon arrival, it is necessary to self-isolate and take tests. The average stay is 1-1.5 months.

In general, the cost of travel during the season will not be lower than in 2020 - it will even grow slightly. But this is not due to markups from tour operators - they set themselves the lowest possible margin. The main reasons are the limited air travel supply and seasonality. It is expected to rise in price from March 1.

Related: Bulgaria opens resorts to Ukrainian tourists

Egypt and Turkey

In 2020, rest in the most popular destinations in Ukraine - in Egypt and Turkey - turned out to be much more affordable than rest on the Azov Sea. This trend will continue in 2021 due to dumping from competing hotels in resorts. For example, in Hurghada now discounts are about 30-50%. In addition, tourists are offered promotions in the form of a "bonus" free night for short-term bookings.

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However, the trend will soon change due to the onset of the season (March-April). If we talk about Egypt, then the demand can be fueled by the fact that the date of the resumption of direct flights is currently being discussed between this country and the Russian Federation. If a decision is made, hotels will be less motivated to compete for customers with low prices. Also, interest in Egypt is growing due to the fact that the cost of the PCR test for entry is compensated by the abolition of the visa fee for the Sinai Peninsula. It is there that some of the most popular resorts in the country are located.

Early booking can mitigate the risks of price increases. If you plan your trip in advance, you can fly to Egypt for about 720 USD for 6 nights.

As for Turkey, its prices have already risen by about 10%. Demand may increase due to the likely abolition of the requirement for PCR tests in April.

On the other hand, the trend may be influenced by the opening of Egyptian resorts for Russian tourists. In this case, Turkish hotels will be forced to cut prices.

However, tour operators expect that hotels in Turkey and Egypt will not disappoint with the service regardless of prices. Large hotels with a low number of visitors close their standard buildings, which are further from the sea and restaurants. For example, if the standard room was supposed to have a garden view, tourists will receive an upgrade to a sea view room.

Travel agents will be able to judge the latest trends in the service during the coronavirus in May after the so-called "advertising" tours.

Related: Ski resort Bukovel in Ukraine washed away by disastrous deluge: Photos, videos

Exotic destinations during a pandemic

Travel agent "Come with us" (Poyikhaly z namy) says that the main popular destinations, in addition to standard Egypt and Turkey, are the Dominican Republic, Zanzibar, the Emirates, and the Maldives.

With early booking, prices for the Dominican Republic have decreased by about 20%. On average, a trip for two for ten days, subject to a direct flight, costs from 2,500 USD. Just before departure, the price rises by an average of 2,000 USD, that is, at least up to 3,500 USD.

86.8% of the tourists in the resorts of Sri Lanka were Ukrainians. The country is in the "green zone" of the Ministry of Health, so there is no need to isolate itself after returning to Ukraine. In addition, the requirement for testing after five days in a hotel in Sri Lanka has recently been dropped. As a result, the cost of "hot" tours has grown significantly and will add even more in the future.

Travel booking to Cyprus is also promising. There are no tours yet, but the republic became the first EU state to announce an entry permit for Ukrainian tourists after its complete closure. It is planned that active resumption of flights will take place no later than March 1.

There are no directions open to Ukrainians that have dropped significantly. Only a change in tendencies in terms of stay is noticeable. For example, Thailand is currently open, but upon arrival, you need to pay for 2 weeks of accommodation in a special quarantine hotel, and only after that you can check into a hotel. Therefore, the booking is usually long-term.

Related: Maldives to open resorts, hotels for tourists on July 15

Rest in Ukraine

Prices at domestic resorts are not going to freeze. Tourism experts say prices will definitely only go up. For example, in Zatoka during the season, a room in a five-star hotel will cost about 50 USD per day. The rise in prices is associated with forecasts of high demand. It is assumed that it will not fall due to the reluctance of citizens to take risks with travel abroad in the context of rapidly changing quarantine restrictions.

Will the service of Ukrainian resorts meet the challenges of the pandemic? So far, this question remains unanswered, because security certificates, which would indicate the hotels' compliance with covid restrictions, have not been implemented. Instead, the Ministry of Health limited itself to general recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

State Agency for Tourism Development told that they plan to popularize not the most famous Ukrainian vacation spots by creating a special Internet portal and massive placement of outdoor advertising. However, the bet is placed not on 2021, but on 2022. It is assumed that this is when the tourism sector will begin to truly recover.

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