According to experts, an electronic visa is the most progressive way to attract foreign tourists and an effective means of promoting Russian tourism in modern realities.
«Today, at the international exhibition FITUR in Madrid, the most demanded issue of the world tourist community is the introduction of an e-visa. It will significantly reduce the barrier that existed for international inbound tourism to Russia», - said at the beginning of the session Tatyana Sharshavitskaya, Deputy Chairman of the Moscow City Tourism Committee, adding that Moscow and Saint Petersburg have teamed up to more effectively promote the two capitals among Russian and foreign guests. presenting the joint program «Two cities - a million impressions».
Sergey Korneev, Chairman of the Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, noted that the world tourism community today is in a high degree of readiness to restore tourist flows, all countries are preparing new tourist products in order to attract tourists.
«We hope that as the pandemic weakens and restrictions on international tourism are lifted, we will be able to meet the deferred demand from as many travelers as possible, which is very important for the recovery of the tourism economy and dozens of related industries and spheres of city life, and attract new guests to Saint Petersburg», - added Korneev.
By the way, throughout 2020, Saint Petersburg was in the Russian and foreign information field, conducting an extensive marketing campaign. The main goal is for tourism organizations and potential travelers from 52 countries to be able to familiarize themselves with the new opportunities of Saint Petersburg in advance and to take into account the availability of a single e-visa in planning sales and trips by the time the countries begin to actively open their borders for international tourism.
Sergey Korneev also stressed that the Committee, together with Rostourism, has worked out a number of proposals to change the format of an e-visa, increase its validity period and the number of entries.
The expert also proposed to consider the possibility of re-issuing all previously received visas, whose validity has passed during the pandemic.
In turn, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation noted that this measure is available for previously issued electronic visas to Russia. «Visas issued to foreign citizens, but which they did not have time to use, will be issued free of charge,» - added Ruslan Golubovsky, Deputy Director of the Consular Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In the future, the speaker did not rule out the possibility of including medical tourism in the list of possible goals for traveling on an e-visa.
Pavel Burtsev, First Deputy Head of the Passenger Transportation Department of Russian Railways, spoke about the importance of introducing e-visas on Allegro international trains. At the moment, their use is not possible for technical reasons, but the corresponding software is under development.
«In the middle of 2019, 2/3 of the passenger traffic in the direction of Saint Petersburg-Helsinki was made up of Russian citizens and only 1/3 - foreign. Having learned about the pilot project of electronic visas, we received a large number of requests from the Finnish side about the possibility of their use on the route,» - concluded Burtsev.
The discussion was also attended by Sergey Perminov, Senator of the Russian Federation, a representative from the executive body of state power of the Leningrad Region, Andrey Ermak, Minister of Tourism of the Kaliningrad Region and Yevgeny Tchaikovsky, Chairman of the Committee for Culture and Tourism of the Leningrad Region.
In 2019, Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region became subjects of the Russian Federation, which foreign tourists could enter using an e-visa. This played a significant role in increasing the tourist flow of the city. At the end of 2019, the northern capital was visited by 10.4 million tourists. More than 4.9 million of them are citizens of foreign countries, 5.5 million are Russians. Compared to 2018, the tourist flow increased by 26.8%.
Since the start of the pilot project and until the introduction of restrictive measures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued more than 151,000
e-visas to visit Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. The TOP-5 countries, whose citizens have issued the most e-visas for the specified period, include Estonia, France, Latvia, Germany and Finland.
From January 1st, 2021, entry into the territory of the Russian Federation under a simplified procedure became available for citizens of 52 countries.
A single e-visa is a single entry visa, and its validity period is 60 days with the possibility of staying in the country no more than 16 days from the date of entry. A visa is issued on a paid basis (cost $ 40). For children under 6 years old, a single electronic visa is issued free of charge.
At the moment, the issuance of electronic visas to foreigners has been temporarily suspended. It will resume in Russia in full as soon as all restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.