RUSSIA. Booking data from travel analyst ForwardKeys indicate that the Russian Federation is set for a big boost from certain markets thanks to the football World Cup this summer. However, the extra arrivals may not be enough to see Russian inbound tourism return to growth.

According to the analyst, bookings for air travel to Russia during the tournament – which runs from 14 June to 15 July – are currently more than double the same period last year.

The biggest peak in arrivals comes as the World Cup opens, and figures remain high for the rest of June at +118.3% ahead of last year. Bookings from countries that have qualified for the competition show large increases, but mostly from small bases, compared to the same time last year.

As of the end of February, Mexico is seeing the greatest uplift – ahead by a factor of x19 versus visitors going to Russia last year. Other Latin American footballing nations such as Brazil and Argentina are up by factors of x15 and x10 respectively, while Poland is ahead by x7.

On the other side, Italy is down by a factor of x0.5, or -50% fewer bookings. This is due to the four-time champions failing to qualify for the first time since 1958.

ForwardKeys CEO and Co-founder Olivier Jager said: “Once again the power of sport is going to give a massive boost to tourism. The Russians will obviously be looking forward to the international fans’ spending power. It’s just a shame that many Italians won’t be there to enjoy the drama.”

No major uplifts for key nations

The big rises offer airport duty free and travel retailers in Russia opportunities across the vast country as matches will be held at 11 host cities. But among the big uplifts from foreign countries expected by ForwardKeys, only Poland ranks among the top ten biggest incoming tourism markets according to Russian Government statistics.

Other major tourism markets such as China, Finland and Germany do not make ForwardKeys’ top ten list of origin markets showing significant growth in seat bookings for the World Cup.

In the first nine months of 2017 Russia saw total tourism arrivals of 19.97 million down by -3% from 19.53 million in the same period in 2016. Almost 5 million of these arrivals came from the top ten markets led by China.