Russia and China Discuss Further Liberalising Tourist Visa Policy Amidst 63% Year-On-Year Growth In Chinese Arrival Numbers
- Posted by Christopher Ledsham
- On 10th June 2016
- gambling, group tourism, red tourism, russia, Visa Policy
The head of Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency (Rositurm) has reported that the country has witnessed a 63% year-on-year rise in Chinese tourist arrivals in the first five months of 2016, prompting Beijing and Moscow to discuss the streamlining of tourist visas in order to further boost numbers. This builds upon already-strong figures from 2015, when Russia welcomed over one million Chinese tourist arrivals, who spent a total of almost USD 1 billion in the country.
As things currently stand, Chinese citizens travelling as part of an accredited tour group numbering between 5 and 50 persons are entitled to stay in Russia for up to 15 days, while Russian tour groups are entitled to remain in China for up to 30 days. This group travel visa policy has particularly benefitted the development of state-sponsored Red Tourism communist history-themed travel packages, which have flourished amidst a favourable exchange rate for Chinese travellers in recent years. Furthermore, in the context of Russia’s increased political focus on China in the wake of Western sanctions, the two governments approved the opening of ten new Red Tourism routes in June 2015 in order to feed the growing tourist demand.
This week’s bilateral meeting between the Russian Federal Tourism Agency and its Chinese counterpart, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), set into motion plans that would see a lowering of the 10,000 Ruble (USD 156) visa cost for Chinese nationals, as well as a reduction in the minimum group number for visa-free travel from five to three, a change that would no doubt encourage a greater number of single-child family groups to book group tours.
Nevertheless, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that its ultimate goal is to establish visa-free travel between Russia and China, adding Russia to an ever-expanding list of over 50 countries in which Chinese citizens can visit without a visa, or are entitled to one upon arrival. Gui Tsunyu, the head of the Ministry’s Department for Europe and Central Asia, recognised the both the political and economic benefits of the policy, declaring that: “We are going to make tourism another sector for strengthening ties with Russia. Simplifying the visa regime is one of the methods to attracting tourists.”
In addition to the popular tourist destinations of Moscow and St. Petersburg, more adventurous Chinese visitors to Russia are now also being drawn to other regions of Russia. At the recent Russia-China forum for small and medium business held in Sochi between May 30th and 31st, local travel agencies actively promoted premium tourism packages for Chinese tourists focused on themes such as Olympic Sochi and Volgograd’s (formerly Stalingrad) prominent Second World War history.
Russia’s far east has also looked to accommodate gamblers from the East Asia region with the October 2015 opening of the Tigre de Cristal casino in the Primorsky Integrated Economic Zone (PIEZ), a special district in which gambling, typically banned in Russia, is permitted. It is hoped that the Russian region will particularly benefit from Macau’s continued decline in popularity amongst Chinese gamblers amidst Beijing’s ongoing anti-graft campaign.
As has been the case in many destinations, Russia is learning to attract increasingly-experienced Chinese travellers by branding its packages loosely around various themes. Red Tourism, which has existed domestically in China for a number of decades, plays not only into the Chinese perception of travel as a means of broadening the mind, but also allows Chinese visitors to experience world history through a lens they are familiar with from their own educational background. Accordingly, a number of destinations with links to important communist figures, such as Marx, Engels and Lenin have been able to leverage their history connections to attract Chinese tourists, who often appreciate witnessing a reflection of their country’s worldview on the international stage.