Easing Of Foreign Tourist Visas For Russian Arctic To Compete With Norway & Iceland
Sergei Korneyev, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, has suggested at the Arctic: Today and the Future international forum held in St.Petersburg, that electronic visas and eased visa formalities for foreign visitors to the Russian Arctic could attract more tourists to the region.
“We could without major financial investments ‘redirect’ to the Russian Arctic tourists and revenues, which now go to Norway, Iceland and the US.” he said. “For this we should reasonably ease the entrance formalities for foreign tourists, entering the Arctic zone. We see the accelerated introduction of electronic visa regime for foreign tourists to the Russian Arctic regions as most effective.” he added.
The authority says single-entry e-visas could be issued for travelers, crossing the border in the Arctic zone. The list of countries would cover those from where most tourists come to the region. Another possible measure is to offer visa-free travel for 15 days for tourists, who enter the Russian Arctic onboard cruise ships or by air as part of organized groups.
“Arctic tourism is a true blockbuster globally, and people who live in big cities make the majority of travelers. They want to see the North, the Northern Lights, snow, ice, want to experience extreme temperatures.” Korneyev said. “In this segment we have clearly unique advantages, which we want to exploit.”
Other options for authorities to eye are to cut the port duties, to set up the Pevek border-crossing point in Chukotka, and to allow civil planes to land on the military airfield on Alexandra Land (Franz Josef Land). Presently, getting to Franz Josef Land is possible by sea only.
The Arctic: Today and the Future forum featured about 2,500 delegates from Russia and 20 other countries.
Since 2017, nationals of 18 countries have been eligible to receive free e-visas to visit Russia’s Far East including the Kamchatka region, where tourists can ski and trek in pristine landscapes. The majority of these are from ex-Soviet states and China.
Tour operators are seeking to diversify, luring visitors with Arctic tours featuring reindeer herders, rides in Soviet-era tanks or at Imperial palaces. But Russia as a whole only spends around €1 million per year on promoting itself to visitors, according to estimates from the Association of Russian Tour Operators.
The country needs to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure and new facilities for travelers, but equally crucial is a major publicity campaign to improve its image.
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