Tourism consultants have been mentioning for a very long time that the troublesome and out of date system of vacationer visas in Russia negatively impacts the business as a complete, and above all of the variety of incoming guests. The authorities thus determined to vary the system.
After a sequence of world sanctions, GDP stagnation, and following the profitable experiment of internet hosting the 2018 World Cup, Russia is planning to introduce e-visa as a way to spice up tourism development and earnings. The e-visa (or digital visa) will probably be launched on January 1, 2021, all through the nation, after its implementation as a pilot venture in three locations.
“Our goal is to be able to open the country, which was closed to the world for many years (…) the last 20 years for Russia have been very hard and tourism was not a priority. Now we see it as a priority,” says Zarina Dogúzova, President of the Federal Agency for Tourism of Russia (Rosturizm).
Authorities started testing the waters in 2017 with an e-visa that allowed residents of 18 nations to solely go to the town of Vladivostok for eight days, positioned within the japanese a part of the nation. The plan was prolonged final summer time to Kaliningrad and to vacationers from 53 nations – together with member nations of the EU – and, in September, to the crown jewel of Russia: Saint Petersburg. More than 300,000 folks have made use of those visas’ regime. The visa exemption for these attending the 2018 World Cup boosted the annual variety of visits by 10%.
But Russia already knew how far this experiment might go. Few vacationers accept visiting just one metropolis, and those that want to journey the remainder of the nation nonetheless need to face a posh and costly course of. Next yr, ranging from January 1, folks will solely need to fill out an internet type on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an e-visa will probably be issued inside 4 days. This will put an finish to invitation letters or having to tell resorts about registrations, which then present info to the authorities.
“We know that the visa is one of the toughest issues. Modern people want to travel freely, cross borders and enjoy their holidays with the least obstacles [possible] and we understand that. If we want to take a step forward, we need to do some things that are a trend throughout the world, such as making the visa process easier. It was not an easy decision for the Government, for the president [himself],” says Mrs. Dogúzova.
The e-visa will go from the eight days of the pilot venture to 16 days, nonetheless removed from the 90-day visa-free transit for the Schengen space, and from the 30 days of nearly all of non-electronic Russian visas. Dogúzova believes that it’s the first step and hopes that the definitive listing of nations, nonetheless underneath research, will surpass the 53 nations of the pilot venture, of which the United States, for instance, is just not a part of.
“I’d very much like for more Americans to visit Russia because it is one of the less active markets in Russia; it is not so much a matter of security as of having the same visa regime,” she says. It is not any shock that the United Kingdom can also be overlooked after the diplomatic disaster in 2018 as a result of poisoning of Sergei Skripal, which London chalked up as a part of Russian army espionage inside conflicts, and that compelled the EU to implement sanctions towards Moscow for chemical assaults.
According to the knowledgeable, the implementation of the nationwide e-visa in 2021 will improve the variety of vacationers by 30% to 40% in comparison with this yr.
10 years in the past, solely 158,000 Chinese guests traveled to Russia. Today, they account for almost all (19%) of the 5 million vacationers who visited the nation in 2019, a fifth greater than the earlier yr. Chinese teams of as much as 50 folks could journey visa-free, and authorities have employed multilingual personnel for airports and railway stations. Russia and China share a border, and their presidents, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, preserve a very good political and private relationship. In latest years, each presidents have been strengthening their strategic alliance, as seen final December within the inauguration of the Power of Siberia pure gasoline pipeline to compensate for the broken relations with the United States and the European Union.
However, welcoming the Chinese market with open arms was not nicely acquired by everybody. Alla Manílova, Vice Minister of Culture, suggests allocating particular days for overseas guests in the preferred locations. “Other tourists cannot enter some tourist attractions because the Chinese groups are there filling the place up,” mentioned Manílova whereas recalling Tsarskoye Seló, the well-known city of the tsars close to St. Petersburg.
Lately, the coronavirus has are available in the best way of tourism exercise. Last week, Moscow imposed a journey ban on Chinese guests, briefly reversing the visa exemption for Chinese vacationer teams and eradicating them from the pilot venture in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Vladivostok, a metropolis positioned simply kilometers away from the border.
“It is too early to talk about numbers because it is not high season yet. It will depend on how the situation unfolds. Most Chinese visitors come in spring and summer. We see those tour operators are worried, but the situation is not dramatic,” says Dogúzova.
The Association of Tour Operators of Russia has estimated at 90 million euros the losses that the nation could endure if the Chinese vacationer move doesn’t recuperate by the top of March, which is a peak month of the season.