Russian Foreign Tourist Arrivals Up 130% In H1 2023 With A New Clientele

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New fast track Russia E-visa available for citizens of 55 countries from August 1st.   

Russia’s foreign tourist flows soared by 130% in the first six months of 2023 in annual terms to over 187,000 people, statistics by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) show. According to the report, two-thirds of foreign travelers arrived in the country between April and June. “This is 100,000+ more than in the same period last year (81,500 tourists),” the statement reads.

China tourists lead in terms of visits to Russia during the first six months of the year, followed by visitors Türkiye, Germany, Turkmenistan and Iran. The top 10 also include Kazakhstan, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, India, and the United Arab Emirates. 11.8% more EU visitors made trips to Russia in H1 2023 than in the same period last year, with most originating from Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, and Poland.

The Russian Association of Tour Operators (ATOR) noted the figure is 16.5 times less than the tourist flow in the pre-pandemic, 2019 period. Almost 2 million tourists visited Russia from January to June 2019, according to ATOR. A total recovery in numbers of tourist arrivals to Russia then still has some way to go.

However, steps are being taken. Last week, Russia launched an electronic visa (e-visa) service, simplifying travel to Russia for citizens of 55 countries, including citizens of the European Union, European Free Trade Association, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Turkey, among others. The official e-visa application website is here. It is not available to US, UK, or Canadian passport holders who must apply via the Russian embassy in their country of residence.

The visa application process takes just four days and will be based on an application submitted through the electronic visa portal or mobile app. The electronic visa allows foreigners to enter Russia once and stay as a guest or business visitor, a tourist, or a participant in scientific, cultural, sociopolitical, economic, or sporting events.

This week Russia also launched reciprocal visa-free group tours with China and Iran. Industry experts say the peak of tourist flows is expected in mid-August or early-September. Visitors are reminded that Western-issued bank debit and credit cards will not work in Russia.

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