How the War in Ukraine Is Affecting Travel

“The biggest impact I have seen are those that have a cruise booked who do not want their money to go to Russia,” said Victoria Hardison-Sterry, a Florida-based travel advisor with Lakeshore Travel who had one client switch from a Baltic cruise to an Alaska cruise in 2023. “My clients have been outspoken about not adding to the Russian economy.”

Others are worried about traveling in neighboring regions that may be flooded by war refugees, and where the presence of tourists would be a hindrance.

In about six weeks, Mr. Spencer is slated to take a group on an AmaWaterways cruise through southeastern Europe, including traveling through Romania and ending in Budapest. “Clients were initially reassured that the route was 1,200 to 1,500 kilometers away from the Russia-Ukraine border, but that situation has changed as cities far inland have been targeted by Russia,” he said, noting Budapest is only a few hours from Ukraine. For now, the trip is on, though Mr. Spencer is following the news closely. “We travel to support local economies and interact with the cultures, but if they’re dealing with an exodus from Ukraine, we don’t want to be a burden.”

Ensemble Travel Group, a travel advisor consortium, is taking about 150 of its agents on a river cruise in Europe in April. The travelers plan to pack blankets and hygiene kits to donate to a nonprofit helping refugees while they are in Budapest with the goal of doing “something meaningful to help those impacted by this horrible situation,” said Todd Hutzulak, Ensemble’s executive director of marketing, whose grandfather is from Kyiv.

Perhaps no sector of the travel industry has been more affected than tour operators that had trips scheduled in Russia and, to a lesser extent, its neighbors.

Companies including smarTours, Kensington Tours and G Adventures have canceled upcoming trips there. Smithsonian Journeys canceled or rerouted all 2022 trips that visited Russia and said cancellations in Europe have been less than one percent since the war began. Ride and Seek, a bike tour company, plans to continue to operate its Paris-to-St.-Petersburg tour, adjusted to ride to the Russian border, then retreat to Tallinn, Estonia, for the final evening.

“Traditionally, Russia is an emerging market for us that’s growing,” said Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, which canceled a dozen tours in the country including its popular trans-Siberian train trips.

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