In June-September, the number of business trips by representatives of Russian companies to China more than doubled. Against the backdrop of a reduction in business ties with the EU, Russians began to travel more often to specialized exhibitions in China, with which trade turnover in the Russian Federation is now growing. However, business ties have not been lost with all European countries: Italy and the Netherlands remain the most popular among business travelers. The frequency of business visits to Turkey and the post-Soviet countries, on the contrary, began to decline after two years of growth.
The interest of business tourists in China in the third quarter of 2023 increased 2.4 times compared to the same period in 2019 (later the country was closed to foreigners due to the pandemic), Aeroclub calculated. The director of the marketing department at Trivio, Andrey Baturin, and the marketing director at Raketa, Daria Zubritskaya, say the same thing. Aeroclub notes that if a year ago China was not particularly in demand in the business travel segment, now it ranks second, forming 12% of the total bookings of business trips in July-September. “OneTwoTrip for Business” calls China the leader of demand in September-November: the direction formed 16.7% of sales.
Chairman of the Board of the Union of Business Travel Agencies Dmitry Gorin says that TMC players (travel management companies) organize up to 80–90% of the total volume of business trips. This is due to the specifics of contractual relations between legal entities, he explains.
Mr. Baturin reminds that it is incorrect to compare demand for China with 2022: travel was limited due to the pandemic. Full visa processing for Russians resumed in March 2023. The demand immediately became frantic, and business representatives were named as the main applicants (see Kommersant of March 20). High interest in China, according to Andrei Baturin, ensures the expansion of the flight program and the development of trade and economic relations between the countries. Mr. Gorin believes that the main current flow of Russians to China are business tourists coming to the country, in particular, to participate in various exhibitions and events. The Federal Customs Service previously indicated that trade turnover between Russia and China in January-October 2023 reached $196.48 billion, an increase of 27.7% year-on-year.
Interest in China is growing as demand for business travel abroad recovers. According to Aeroclub, their volume in the third quarter increased year-on-year by 16%, but remained one and a half times lower than in 2019. Managing Director of Corporate Business at Vipservice Galina Polishchuk says that in September-November, foreign destinations accounted for 15.1% of business trip bookings. In 2022, the figure was estimated at 11%, in 2019 - at 23%.
Business travel routes have changed significantly under pressure first from pandemic restrictions and then from geopolitical confrontation. If in 2019, nine of the 15 most popular destinations, according to Daria Zubritskaya, were in the EU countries, the USA and the UK, then the demand for business trips to Turkey, the UAE and post-Soviet countries increased. Now the demand map is being adjusted again. Interest in Turkey, according to Aeroclub, in the third quarter decreased by 13% year-on-year, in Kazakhstan - by 17%, in Uzbekistan - by 10%, in Armenia - by 8%. Head of OneTwoTrip for Business Stepan Mastryukov says that Turkey’s share in autumn bookings over the year has decreased from 16.8% to 12.8%.
Interest in European destinations, on the contrary, began to recover. According to Aeroclub, the top 10 most popular countries in the third quarter included Italy and the Netherlands. Year on year, demand in these countries increased almost 2 and 4.3 times, respectively. OneTwoTrip for Business adds that Italy will account for 4.4% of booked business trips this fall. A year earlier, the figure was lower - 2.5%. Ostrovok.ru Business Travel notes an increase in hotel bookings in Italy by 39% year on year.
According to Trivio, the number of business trips to the European Union in the fall increased by 15% year-on-year, led by Italy, France and Germany. But demand is still hampered by inconvenient logistics, notes Mr. Baturin. Raketa also talks about a 15% increase in demand in European directions. “Russian businesses have established business connections there, and the need for business trips continues,” explains Ms. Zubritskaya. Dmitry Gorin also sees an increase in interest in travel to the EU, linking it with the restoration of activity in certain business areas. Aeroclub adds that travel activity to Italy and the Netherlands is growing from retailers and IT companies.