Who could expect!: WC has almost no influence on tourist traffic structure and number to Russia

165 people decided to move to Russia for permanent residency in the first half of 2018

Who could expect!: WC has almost no influence on tourist traffic structure and number to Russia Photo: Maksim Platonov

Realnoe Vremya's analytic staff studied data about tourist entries to Russia in the first half of 2018, which obviously contain information about the WC tourism, though the 2018 FIFA World Cup already ended in the second half of the year, in the middle of July. Excluding the play-off, it seems that the WC almost didn't influence the structure and number of tourist traffic to Russia. There were really more South Americans, but their number is too small in comparison with the Chinese and Germans, Kazakhs and Ukrainians. Despite the cold relations between Russia and Ukraine, over 4 million Ukrainians have been to Russia this year. We also found out that the Poles liked running a business in our country, while the Finns, on the contrary, reduced trips to their eastern neighbour.

Nobody knows for sure how many tourists came to the WC

Given the big popularity of play-off matches, it's clear considerable part of fans could arrive in Russia in July. Unfortunately, there are still no accurate and coherent numbers about the total number of guests who visited Russia due to the 2018 WC. Different agencies and service provide different information. So according to FIFA's data published during the WC, Americans were second after Russians in terms of the number of football fans (88,800 people), they are followed by Brazilians (72,500), Colombians (62,500), Germans (62,500), Mexicans (60,300), Argentinians (54,000), Peruvians (43,500), Chinese (40,300), Australians (36,350) and English (32,300). After the WC ended, in early August, the Russian Agency for Tourism published its data and claimed inbound tourism during the 2018 WC increased by more than 50%. According to the agency, 223,200 people from China visited Moscow only, 167,400 people came from the USA. A totality of 3,4m foreigners came to the WC.

Finally, the Russian Federal Security Service's Public Relations Centre provided the latest numbers with a link to the body's border service. Noticeably fewer people came with FAN IDs than the Russian Agency for Tourism counted – just 633,000 people. According to the FSS, ''the biggest number of fans came to Russia from China (over 53,000), the USA (over 46,000), Mexico (over 41,000), Argentina (over 31,000), Brazil (over 27,000), Germany and Great Britain (over 25,000), Colombia (over 23,000), Peru and France (about 20,000), Croatia (over 18,000).

WC had almost in influence on tourist traffic structure and number to Russia

Separately called countries demonstrated the biggest growth in traffic are the common thing in the data provided by FIFA, the Russian Agency for Tourism and the FSS. Only three of these countries are European, while five are South American (they total 12). And we need to say that despite real growth in traffic in certain countries, there wasn't a significate rise in tourist traffic to Russia thanks to the WC, judging by the middle of the 2018 WC, that's to say, on 1 July. It's clear the comparison is very careful: the greatest part of fans probably came in the first two weeks, that's to say, 2 out of 3,4 million foreigners, the Russian Agency for Tourism says. But even in this case, tourist flow would increase by just 6,5% in comparison with the last year: in 2017, there were registered 32m entries to Russia, 31,4m – in 2016, and just 15m people came in the first half of 2018.

This ''opposition'' to the WC is easily explained: despite assurances of the Russian authorities about growth in traffic from several countries, including a ''50% rise during the 2018 WC'' (a very significate specification!), there wasn't an increase in traffic in the countries from the top 15 with the biggest number of foreigners who came to Russia in 2017. Meanwhile, they accounted for 26,8m out of 32m entries, or almost 84%. 12,3 foreign entries or 82% were from these countries in the first half of the year. That's to say, even the structure of entries didn't change notably: the same upsurges – in the USA, England, moreover, in South American countries – have almost no influence as a percentage (or didn't have in the first half).

Really more South Americans but too little compared to Chinese and Germans

Indeed, the countries enumerated by the FSS and FIFA showed impressive growth in the first half already. And it's obvious these numbers contain tourist traffic in June, as they didn't appear even in the top 50 in 2016-2017. However, even these sudden rises are a drop in the ocean compared to tourist traffic from the top 15 (excluding two countries, but they didn't have big rises, more below).

Let's start ''with the end''. This year have been really more guests from Peru. And it's obviously completely linked with the love of South American countries for football: 25,700 Peruvians visited Russia in the first half, while just 7,000 did in 2017. As a result, the countries went up from the 81 st to the 48th place. 30,250 Colombians arrived in Russia in 2018 and just 13,200 did in 2017 (from last year's 69th place to the 42nd). Approximately the same number came from Croatia in the first half like last year (16,200 against 17,000). There have been 42,140 Argentinians in Russia in 2018, last year they totalled 25,900. The structure of tourist traffic of Mexicans and Brazilians (over 40,000 people in the first half this year and 27-38,000 last year).

However, the higher a country's position is, the less is the influence of the WC on the structure of trips to Russia made by citizens of a country. So 33,500 people came from Australia – but almost 50,000 came from there last year too. Over 100,000 people came from the United Kingdom where people love football no less than in Brazil. But again, almost twice more people came last year (193,500 people), this means there hasn't been big growth. Great Britain's situation is similar with France (114,600 people in the first half of 2018, 211,700 people last year) and the USA (157,500 people in the first half, almost 300,000 – in 2017). We can, of course, hope that play-off games provided the significant growth. But neither FIFA nor the FSS calls numbers of fans who came from France, England or the USA, which could notably change the structure of entries to Russia for citizens of these countries: it should be reminded that it was said England would have 32,000 fans, France – over 20,000. And the Russian Agency for Tourism managed to count the biggest amount of fans – 167,400 Americans. And this number is quite comparable with last year's scale.

Numbers for China and Germany seem by far more questionable. Comparing the first half of 2018 with last year's one, it will turn out that there have been 7% fewer guests from China, and almost 9% fewer people from Germany. And the number of people going there quite seriously influences the structure and the size of tourist traffic in Russia: 828,200 Chinese people and 288,600 Germans in 2018 manyfold exceed the number of foreigners from the above-mentioned countries.

'Despite politics': over 4m Ukrainians visited Russia in the first half of the year

Indeed, the major tourist traffic to Russia was created and continues being created from near abroad countries, China and Finland despite any WC.

So Ukraine occupied and occupies the first place in the number of visitors to Russia, and the ''cold war'' between the countries doesn't impede this leadership. 4,m Ukrainians visited Russia in the first half of 2018. To compare, 9,8m people were here in 2017, a similar amount was here in 2016. Most Ukrainians came to Russia not to make money, at least not officially: just 310,400 Ukrainians claimed they had a ''business trip'' as purpose. Most Ukrainians come to our country for personal reasons, that's to say, to visit relatives (or, we won't exclude that to find an illegal job): 3,7m people have already come this year with such a purpose (8,5m people in 2017, the same number in 2016). Due to the absence of flights and railways, Ukrainians keep visiting their relatives either by car (3 million people) or on foot (870,000 people). Nevertheless, excluding the seasonality of trips, the number of Ukrainian visits has fallen by 13% since 2017.

Kazakhs visit Russia for personal reasons and Uzbeks have business trips

Kazakhstan is another country that has been making up the tourism agenda in Russia for the third year in a row. 1,9m entries to Russia were registered in the first half of 2018. For comparison, the number was a bit more than 4 million in 2017 as well as in 2016. Like in case of Ukraine, numbers remain stable, but the majority of visitors can't be considered labour migrants, as they rarely have ''business trips'', not to mention leisure trips: 1,4m Kazakhstanis officially arrived in Russian for personal reasons. Again, if we don't consider the seasonality of trips, Kazakhstani flow reduced by 8,5%.

Uzbekistan is the third country that has been massively sending its ''sons'' to far cold Russia for years. 1,2m people already came from there in the first of all 2018 (2,35m in 2017, 2,1m in 2016), which is 5% more than last year. There were 11% of Uzbeks more in 2017 than in 2016. Precisely Uzbek visitors can be reasonably considered labour migrants: a lion's share, almost 800,000 people, arrived in Russia for business reasons, only 387,700 had personal purposes. Kazakhs and Uzbeks visited Russia mainly by car.

Half of Chinese people are tourists

The number of Chinese people who visited Russia last year increased by 14% (from 1,6 to 1,8m people), 828,230 people came from the Celestial Kingdom in the first half of the year. Only half of the Chinese were tourists (who want to watch WC matches), or 448,000 people. 182,600 Chinese had business trips, another 114,300 had personal issues. For clear reasons, almost all citizens of the Celestial Kingdom arrived in Russia by plane.

Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, who follow them, also provided Russia with mainly their labour migrants or relatives: 430,600 Tajiks and 93,500 Azerbaijanis had business trips, almost 400,000 Azerbaijanis and over 200,000 Tajiks claimed to have personal reasons.

Finally, the only top 10 country from Western Europe (with reserves), sadly, demonstrates negative dynamics. Finland, which is the fifth most visiting country in 2016 (1,4m) became seventh (a bit more than 1 million). Just 483,100 people came from there in the first half of 2018. Business trips are the main reason for the Finns' trips to Russia.

Let's note a very sad fact: almost nobody wants to move to Russia for permanent residency. For instance, 2,600 people expressed their desire to live here permanently in 2016, 356 of whom are Kazakhs. Fewer people moved to Russia in 2017 – 2,500, 404 – from Kazakhstan. And there were 165 people in the first half of 2018.

Poles liked running business in Russia: their traffic doubled last year

There haven't been big major changes in the business agenda in the last years: Western European countries aren't key suppliers of migrants and/or business people. Only Poland is in the top 10, moreover, the number of visitors to Russia doubled in 2017: from 331,700 to 661,600 people. 302,000 citizens of Poland already visited Russia in the first half of the year. By the way, the Poles are third in number of business trips to Russia giving way to the Uzbeks and Tajiks and being ahead of the Finns and Ukrainians. China is only 8 th with 182,700 migrants in the business rating (whose majority seems to settle down in the Far East like the Finns in the North West and in Saint Petersburg in particular). It's interesting that despite not the warmest relations between the countries, Estonian migrants were even ahead of the Kazakhs with the quantity of visitors to Russia in the first half of 2018 (as well as in 2017 and 2016): 160,600 against 130,000 business tourists.

7,4bn foreigners went on a business trip to Russia last year, they totalled 7 million in 2016. 3,7m business entries were registered in the first half of 2018.

People from China, Germany, USA come to see attractions in Russia

The WC didn't dramatically influence even tourist trips in Russia in the first half of 2018, according to their structure. It hasn't almost changed since 2016 – Iran left the top 10 in the first half.

So citizens of China, Germany and the USA have been in the top 3 countries arriving to see Russian attraction in the last years. There were 890,700 Chinese people in 2016, a quarter more in 2017 – 1,1m people. However, they totalled just 448,000 people in the first half of 2018. Excluding the seasonality of tourism, last year's record is unlikely to be broken. There were 5% more tourists from Germany than last year (408,500 and 390,000 people). Sadly, Germans didn't rush to Russia in the first half of 2018 – they were equal to 163,700. There was a quarter more Americans who wanted to visit our country last year ''despite sanctions'' than in 2016 (223,600 against 178,000 people). However, only 90,000 people came from the USA in the first half of 2018. It's possible that two summer months will somehow change the situation, but it's unlikely to be significant.

People from Israel constantly visit Russia (147-148,000 people in 2016-2017), but just 58,500 tourists came from Israel to Russia in the first half of the year. Growth in leisure trips of citizens of South Korea in 2018 stopped with 143,700 people in 2016 to 236,500 in 2017 or 65% but is firmly at a high level) 116,700 Koreans already visited Russia in the first half of 2018.

Finally, 3% more UK citizens, or 125,700 people, visited Russia in 2017. However, this growth stopped in the first half of 2018 (it's unknown if it's linked with the general cooling in relations between countries or not): only 56,165 Queen Elizabeth II's subjects came to Russia. Can we hope traffic has increased after football play-offs? Officially, it's said 20-30,000 team England fans visited Russia. There wasn't registered any big growth in the first half from other Western European counties (Italy, France, Spain). By the way, if European countries aren't in the top business trips, six countries at once are among 10 countries with the biggest number of people visiting Russia as tourists.

…but share of 'pure tourists' didn't exceed 11% even during WC

Only 1,6m people visited Russia in the first half of 2018 as tourists, or 10,6% of all guests. For comparison, 3,8m foreigners, or 11,8% of all visitors, visited Russia throughout 2017. In 2016, there were 3,26m real tourists, or 10,3%. We can just hope and believe Russian authorities and experts who suppose that the ''positive effect of the world cup will last for several years, which, in turn, can increase the flow of foreign tourists to Russia by 18% a year''. So we can expect the number of tourists must total over 4 million people in 2018 (4,4m, to be more precisely). Moreover, Russian president Vladimir Putin offered fans a visa-free visit to Russia for six months.

Despite this, a small share of pure tourism in the general flow of people entering Russia catches the eye. Perhaps, the tourism sector's snail pace encouraged Putin to adopt a decree on 14 September. According to it, the Federal Agency for Tourism, which used to belong to the Russian Ministry of Culture, becomes dependent on the Ministry of Economic Development ('it was also given the functions to create and pursue the state policy in tourism and supervise tour operators' activity''), which, however, was already responsible for the tourism sector in 2000-2004. Now supervisors think the government is fighting backstage for the right to chair the tourism sector – both Olga Golodets and Anton Siluanov are the candidates. Sergey Kapkov also has had a get the post of the Russian tourism agency.

Meanwhile, the Russian Accounts Chamber has complaints about the fulfilment of inbound and outbound tourism development programme in 2011-2018. So the chamber thinks 12 regions violated obligations to meet design terms and to construct tourism clusters presupposed by the federal targeted programme: ''52 of 108 facilities of the tourist infrastructure, which are to be created by means of private investors, haven't appeared yet; according to the audit, the Russian Agency for Tourism's report in 2017 was declared false,'' the Accounts Chamber states. In 2018, the tourism agency must get 3,7bn rubles from the budget, which is 12% less than one year before (here we don't consider billions from the Russian Ministry of Sport for the WC for clear reasons).

By Sergey Afanasyev