Russia is aiming to cash in on an increasing inflow of tourists from China, benefiting from the two nations’ increased strategic and economic cooperation, a Russian tourism official said on Thursday.
“We expect more Chinese friends to visit Russia, and benefit from China’s burgeoning middle class, whose number and appetite for travel swell year after year,” Vladimir Fomin, deputy head of the international cooperation department of the Russian federal tourism agency, told a press conference at a Russian tourism roadshow themed Successful Russia.
The tourism promotion event was organized only weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China which saw the signing of a series of economic agreements including a historic 30-year $400 billion gas supply deal. Russia has increasingly become a destination of choice for Chinese people since the two countries organized the China-Russia Tourism Year promotional events in 2012-13, Fomin said.
Official statistics show that around 915,300 Chinese tourists chose Russia as the first stop in their itinerary in 2013. The number of visitors from Beijing to Russia soared 31 percent year-on-year to over 40,000 in 2013, said Wang Yue, deputy director with Beijing municipal commission of tourism development, noting that Russia-bound tourism got a big boost from the Tourism Year project. Jiang Yiyi, deputy director with Beijing-based China Tourism Academy, said the fact that more and more Chinese are now choosing Russia as a tourist destination is also contributing to enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries.
“A number of Chinese companies, such as PetroChina and Wanda Group, have established a footprint in Russia and Kazakhstan by building star-rated hotels and setting up tourism service institutions,” Jiang told the Global Times on Thursday.
However, most Chinese tourists to Russia still have to sign into a travel group and depart to Russia from major Chinese cities. Experts pointed out that Russia should work on streamlining visa-application process for Chinese tourists, improving the infrastructure such as sign boards more tourist-friendly, and tackling issues in long-distance transportation over its vast territory to truly unlock the vast potential of the Chinese tourist market.