Russia, China, Resume Visa-Free Mutual Tourism Group Travel
Russia and China have reinstated an agreement on visa-free group trips, which was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian Economic Development Ministry has stated, announcing “The agreement between the government of the Russian Federation and the government of the People’s Republic of China on visa-free group tourism visits of February 29, 2000 has been reinstated after being suspended over the new coronavirus infection pandemic.”
To admit Chinese tourists to Russia, the Russian Economic Development Ministry needs to receive a list of Chinese tour companies planning to arrange group tours under the agreement and pass it to the Border Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to the Ministry, this is expected from the Chinese Culture and Tourism Ministry in the near future.
Chinese overseas tour operators will now be busy arranging group tours for Chinese nationals to Russia. It is a lucrative business – 2.3 million Chinese tourists visited Russian in 2019, with about 50% of those using visa free facilities. China’s share in Russia’s total number of incoming foreigners amounted to 6.6% of the total that year. About 2 million Russian tourists travelled in the opposite direction that year before transit was curtailed due to the pandemic.
The bilateral agreement allows organized tourist groups numbering from five to 50 people to visit their respective countries without visas and stay for up to 15 days.
Chinese tourists will generally fall into two categories, with at least half being small traders buying goods and establishing trade networks on Russia’s border regions with China, with the others heading for cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russians tend to follow a similar pattern and head to Harbin and Beijing for small trade, and elsewhere for tourism.
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