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Russian travel agencies feel pinch of geopolitical tensions


ST. PETERSBURG, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- St. Petersburg travel agency and tour firm Veter Stranstviy (Wind of Wandering) on Thursday announced the suspension of all operations following a poor start to 2014.

According to the Interfax news agency,several dozen Russian tourists are currently abroad on Veter tours, although Russia's Federal Tourism Agency has confirmed that all travelers will be able to make their way home safely on regular flights.

A relatively small operator, the St. Petersburg-based firm maintained a subsidiary in Moscow and had enjoyed solid growth in recent years as Russia's growing middle class, heavily concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, sought overseas adventure and recreation.

The firm joins a growing list of tour operators that have felt the pinch of Russia's economic downturn and strained political relation with Russia's Western neighbors in recent months.

The standoff between Russia and the West over the political future of Ukraine has culminated in economic sanctions and travel restrictions for many Russian families.

Earlier this summer, fellow St. Petersburg travel firm and industry pioneer Neva announced sudden closure, sending shock waves through the Russian travel sector and leaving hundreds of tourists fearing that they were not guaranteed passage home.

Several other Russian tour firms have also closed in recent months as local travelers are increasingly putting their overseas holidays on hold.