World Cup delivers bookings boost into Russia, but will latest political tensions hit actual demand?

This summer’s Football World Cup is providing a notable uplift in demand into Russia compared to traffic levels at the same time last year as supporters from the 31 qualified foreign nations follow their teams into the Federation for the month long tournament which will run from 14-Jun-2018 to 15-Jul-2018. According to bookings data from intelligence specialists ForwardKeys, the biggest peak in arrivals comes as the tournament opens, and figures remain high for the rest of June – 118.3% ahead of last year – as the competition moves to its climax.

The FIFA tournament is returning to Europe for the first time since it was held in Germany 2006 and follows it being hosted in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. ForwardKeys says forward bookings data shows travellers are coming from across the world to attend the tournament with numbers for arrivals from those countries that have qualified for the competition showing “enormous increases” compared to the equivalent position at the same time last year.

According to data providers, Mexico shows the greatest uplift – ahead by a factor of 19 on visitors going to Russia last year. Brazil (x15), Argentina (x10), and Poland (x7), who have also qualified, all show dramatic increases in bookings, as of the end of Feb-2018.

The correlation between the tournament and traffic demand is clear when you consider demand from Italy. The great footballing nation and four-times champions failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup (for the first time since 1958) and Italian bookings for Russia are lagging by as much as half on the previous year.

“Once again the power of sport is going to give a massive boost to tourism,” says Olivier Jager, CEO and co-founder of ForwardKeys. “The Russians will obviously be looking forward to the international fans’ spending power.”

The ForwardKeys data shows that the United Kingdom is showing the ninth largest year-over-year rise in bookings during the 11-Jun-2018 to 30-Jun-2018 period with a trebling in demand related to England’s qualification, but increasing political tensions between the UK and Russia following the globally-publicised alleged poisoning incident in Salisbury, UK and the deportation of diplomats from each of the countries may ultimately have a lasting impact on demand levels with less than three months to the tournaments opening.

The Blue Swan Daily highlights the 32 nations that will compete for the prestigious trophy, ranking them based on the size of the aviation markets by departure available seat kilometres (ASKs), based on 2017 annual schedule data from OAG (the intelligence provider does not distinguish between the UK nations in its country reports so we have used this cumulative UK ASKs total which includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

CHART – With the world’s two largest aviation nations – USA and China – failing to qualify for the World Cup it is the UK, Japan and Germany that head our 2017 ASK departure rankingSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG