Travel boycott brewing? Rick Steves’ Europe cancels tours to Russia over Ukraine invasion

Feb 26, 2022

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an immediate global impact, including worldwide outrage and economic sanctions. It is also causing a ripple effect across the travel industry. Russia has banned U.K. airlines from its airspace after the U.K. imposed sanctions barring Aeroflot from its airspace and landing there.

TPG has already reported on how numerous cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, have canceled all stops at the port in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the remainder of 2022 at least. The reason given for those cancellations was safety. Norwegian sent a letter to travel agents earlier this week that read in part: “The health, safety and security of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority. Due to the escalated situation between Russia and Ukraine we have made the decision to alter itineraries.”

However, we’re learning of another interruption in travel to Russia that cites a different reason — a desire to avoid adding money to the coffers of Russia’s authoritarian leadership. Rick Steves’ Europe is canceling all of its 2022 tours that include stops in Russia, effective immediately.

Steves himself announced the decision in a blog post, saying, “Our mission at RSE is to help Americans better know and understand our neighbors through travel. But when we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression. Therefore, as of today, we have canceled all 2022 tours that include a stop in Russia.”

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According to the Washington Post, the tours impacted by the decision include the “Best of St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Helsinki in 9 Days Tour,” which included five days in St. Petersburg. Departures for that tour were scheduled to start in May and were sold out through September. RSE had just resumed its tours this month after putting them on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Steves told the Post that his decision was based on “a matter of principle.”

The decision to cancel trips to Russia for reasons other than safety concerns could gain momentum as news from Ukraine about the violence there spreads. We have not heard of other members of the travel industry making a similar decision, but it stands to reason that the longer the Russian invasion of Ukraine goes on, the potential for a full-on travel boycott of Russia grows.

Featured image: Soltan Frédéric/Getty Images.

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