Despite increasing tension between the UK and Russia, travel patterns to Moscow and St Petersburg have barely been affected, The Independent can reveal.
Data from Travelport, a global travel tech company, shows there has been little change in either the number of new trips or cancellations of existing bookings.
The firm checked data for all bookings through global distribution systems (GDSs) from London, Manchester and Edinburgh to Moscow and St Petersburg.
On a typical day in February, there were 30,000 fresh bookings and 19,000 cancellations, resulting in a net increase of 11,000 flights. The reason for the high cancellation figure is that most of these trips are for business travel, and an amended flight counts as both a new booking and a cancellation.
The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal took place on 4 March. Britain’s sanctions against Russia were announced on 14 March, along with updated Foreign Office advice warning of possible anti-British harassment.
The Russian response, closing the UK consulate in St Petersburg and the entire British Council operation, was on 17 March.
Studying the Travelport data, it is difficult to make any correlation between booking levels and these events.
Comparing days in March with the same days in February, average new bookings have been slightly higher, with no significant increase in cancellations.
Much bigger movements took place in mid-January, before the increase in tension.
Leisure travellers have expressed some concerns, but few have cancelled, according to one of the leading specialists for Russia.
Andrea Godfrey, brand manager for Regent Holidays, said: “We have been fielding quite a lot of calls from people wondering about conditions, and we have had three or four cancellations.
“On the ground, British tourists are being treated as they always are. One client has just come back and reported they had a really great time.
“Enquires are down, but we are still taking bookings – including two new bookings this morning, one for the Trans-Siberian.”
Tour operators to Russia face particular problems in 2018 because of the World Cup, which will disrupt normal travel to the country from mid-June to mid-July.