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More and more tour operators view conducting business in Russia as toxic, and more importantly, prospective guests largely consider the country unsafe. So as long as Russia continues to wage war, there's no rush for tour operators to make immediate plans to return.

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The growing fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war is propelling numerous tour operators to cancel scheduled trips to Russia. Several of them have expressed concerns about keeping guests safe in the volatile region as several nations, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and U.S., have warned their citizens not to travel to Russia. In addition, company executives said they’re looking to pressure on Russia to end the invasion.

“The health and safety of our travelers is of the utmost importance to us,” said G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Trip in a statement echoed by other tour operator executives about his company’s decision to shelve its Russia trips for the remainder of 2022.

G Adventures has canceled 25 trips scheduled for Russia over this year and next, and Poon Tip added — in line with global sanctions — the company would neither accept Russian nationals living in the country on its trips nor take bookings from Russian agencies.

“We recognize that these sanctions will impact everyday people who may not agree with Russia’s politics but they are unfortunately essential to apply pressure on the country to invoke change,” Poon Tip said, characterizing G Adventures’ actions are part of a wider travel industry strategy to force Russia to end the invasion.

Renowned guidebook writer Rick Steves expressed similar reasoning behind the decision of his tour company’s, Rick Steves’ Europe, to cancel its Russia’s offerings. “When we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression,” he said.

Meanwhile, tour operators that cancelled their planned trips to Russia are having to scramble to refund guests, which Poon Tip said is difficult due to banks closures in the country, as well as provide them alternatives. Melissa DaSilva, the U.S. president of Trafalgar Tours — which had four trips to the country scheduled for this year — said her company is giving travelers the option to reschedule their trip for a later date or change to an itinerary in a different destination.

“We are currently working with guests booked on itineraries that travel to Russia to help them make the best travel decisions for their needs,” DaSilva said.

While G Adventures and Trafalgar have emphatically stated they won’t take guests there during the rest of 2022, Intrepid Travel is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Russia as the company has only canceled its tours to the country through the end of June.

“We review trips roughly 5-6 weeks prior to departure looking at the validity of operations, customer safety, travel restrictions, etc.,” said Matt Berna, Intrepid’s North American Managing Director. He added that trips to Russia would be canceled or rerouted if government advisories remain the same.  

But when will tour operators resume their Russian trips? Although several executives were noncommittal about issuing a timeframe, Poon Tip said a peaceful settlement to the war would spur G Adventures to return to the country while Berna is adamant about conducting tours in Russia again.

“We are not boycotting all future trips in Russia,” he said, adding that Intrepid doesn’t view canceling trips due to safety as a boycott. “When it is safe to do so, we will do our best to support the people of Ukraine and of Russia, not the regime of Russia, through travel. We are hopeful of a safe and peaceful path out of this crisis soon.”


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Tags: conflict, russia, tour operators, ukraine

Photo credit: Many tour operators won't be taking their guests to see St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow this year Zeynel Cebeci / Wikimedia Commons

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