China will seek a visa-free regime with Russia in order to ensure a greater balance in tourism between the two countries, a senior Foreign Ministry official said in Beijing on Tuesday.
“We want to make tourism another means of bolstering our ties with Russia and easing visa controls is one way of making this happen,” Gui Congyou, the head of the Ministry’s European-Central Asian Affairs department, told Russian journalists on Tuesday.
Gui Congyou mentioned the recent steps in this direction made by the two countries, including the lifting of visa requirements for groups of five tourists and more.
“We are going to continue easing the bilateral visa regime for tourists all the way to abolishing visas altogether,” he said, adding that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Russia in the past two years had gone up by twice, exceeding 1.1 million a year.
“Almost half a million visited St. Petersburg last year alone and if we bring this annual figure to five million this would bring a lot of money to the Russian budget. With each Chinese tourist coming to Russia spending around $2,000, this would amount to nearly $10 billion a year,” the diplomat said.
Gui Congyou mentioned the recent drop in the number of Russian tourists coming to China caused by economic problems, but hoped that Russia would eventually leave its temporary economic woes behind and the number of Russian tourists traveling to the People’s Republic would go up again.