Surge in travel demand from Russia anticipated in 2022, says ForwardKeys

By Charlotte Turner |

The number of Russian outbound travellers is expected to increase by +64% this year vs 2021 figures and +96% vs 2020, according to ForwardKeys’ Forecast data, with many Asian destinations set to benefit.


Nan Dai, China Market Expert at ForwardKeys provides an update on when traffic is set to return to pre-pandemic levels: “Looking at the current pattern and pace for bookings, it is expected to recover to 2019 levels approximately in 2025-2026.”


Thailand was the top Asian destination for Russian travellers in 2019, accounting for 37% of all destinations in Asia. Back then Sri Lanka represented 3%, ranking 9th in the top Asian destination list, according to ForwardKeys’ Total Air Market (TAM) data.

However, in 2021 Thailand’s market share decreased to 11%, while Sri Lanka increased its share to 4%, allowing it to jump into the fourth position in the aforementioned ranking.



Russia is not in Thailand’s ‘Test and Go’ (quarantine-free travel) Approved Countries list, meaning that Russian travellers are only allowed to enter select locations in Thailand through the Sandbox program and stay for at least 7 days before travelling to other areas in Thailand.


Meanwhile, Sri Lanka proactively launched tourism promotion initiatives with Russia last September. More importantly, Sri Lankan Airlines has returned to Russia with direct flights since last summer, after a break of six years.

“Thailand’s reopening time was later than the other destinations in the region, such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka,” added Dai.


“Thailand’s Sandbox program started last July and launched the quarantine-free ‘Test and Go’ program last November; Sri Lanka in Jan 2021 and Maldives in July 2020.”


In 2021, Russian travel to Asia recovered just 3% of a pre-pandemic levels. Major destinations such as Thailand are recovering by 4%, Singapore by 18%, Indonesia by 4% and Vietnam by 1%.



Forward-looking air tickets for Russian outbound travel in January and February of 2022, capture a preference for sun and sea leisure destinations.

According to ForwardKeys, Sri Lanka has seen a 30% growth in issued tickets for holiday travel from Russia in January and February, but the share volume is the same as last year, at just 4%.


The UAE is the most booked destination, with a slight 2% decrease compared to 2019’s number. Thailand ranks second, followed by the Maldives, which saw a dramatic increase of 142%.


In 2021, Maldives was the only destination to see an increase in Russian arrivals when compared to 2019. Its success has been attributed to a wise move on the part of marketing activities to new source markets.


“According to Visit Maldives, a client of ForwardKeys, due to the pandemic, they altered their focus to utilise online and digital platforms to maintain the destination presence and partnered with some of the leading Russian tourism-related organisations, operators, travel agents and travel TV channels to spread the knowledge about the Maldives to boost arrivals from Russia,” said Dai.


Traditionally popular destinations such as Turkey and Egypt also top the list. Where bookings to Turkey is down by 20% compared to 2019 levels, Egypt has experienced an increase of 272%.


“It appears the sun and sea of the Maldives and Egypt are winning over Russian travellers this year,” added Dai.


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