Tourist entry permits should be made cheaper or entirely abolished, the deputy minister of economic development has said FILE PHOTO: Tourists from China arrive at the Russian city of Vladivostok. © Sputnik / Vitaliy Ankov

Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has suggested significantly easing entry visa rules for tourists visiting the country, Deputy Minister Dmitry Vakhrukov has revealed.

A visa on arrival should be introduced in Russia, “not for everybody, but for specific countries, towards which we are oriented,” Deputy Minister Dmitry Vakhrukov said at the ‘Let’s Travel! Russian Tourism Forum’ in Moscow on Thursday.

The country’s authorities should also make the “important and fundamental decision” to allow Russia to simplify visa requirements for other nations on a unilateral basis, he insisted.

It is needed so that “we could – at our own discretion – make our country visa-free for certain states,” the deputy minister of economic development explained.

According to Vakhrukov, his ministry and other government agencies are discussing lowering tariffs and prolonging the period of both regular visas and electronic visas, which became available to Russia-bound tourists last August.

The introduction of a multiple-entry visa that remains valid for 15 months or even two years could also help increase the flow of visitors to the country, he explained.

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The duration of the visas issued to tourists should also take into account seasonal factors, the official stressed. “For example, for China and the Middle East, there are different periods when tourism to Russia is at maximum demand,” he said. The Chinese usually visit in January and February when the Chinese New Year is celebrated, while the Middle Easterners come in December, July and August, Vakhrukov explained.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development Maksim Reshetnikov said that the tourist flow to the country during the January-April period had increased 40%-year-on-year.

According to the minister, over 400,000 foreigners have visited Russia by obtaining electronic visas over the past ten months. Visa-free group tours are also available to visitors from China and Iran, he said, adding that talks are underway to introduce a similar program with India.

There are no longer a significant number of flights between Russia and Europe, as a result of the Western sanctions which were imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict. As a result, the country’s tourist industry has switched its focus to Asia and the Middle East.

The Ministry of Economic Development said earlier that it is seeking to boost the number of foreign visitors coming to Russia, mainly from those regions, to 16 million by 2030. Reshetnikov announced last month that mutual tourist flow between Russia and China exceeded 1.2 million last year; there are plans to increase it to 2 million in 2024. (RT)