Europe restricts Russian travelers while Russia opposes visa requirements to save its tourism industry -By Kestér Kenn Klomegah

The 7th Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, among others, seeks to overcome obstacles affecting the tourism industry. As part of the construction of inland tourism infrastructure, extra-budgetary investments are needed for their rapid realization. The Federal Government and the Far East Regional Authority have also been emphasizing this development program in recent years.

In general, unprecedented funding has been allocated to accelerate the creation of tourism infrastructure. The government has created the necessary conditions for the synergy of resources so that domestic and foreign tourists can travel at affordable prices and enjoy vacations in modern resorts and entertainment destinations.

But the efforts have encountered a number of setbacks, with many political developments strongly influencing certain aspects of the industry. Tourism in and out of Russia has all but collapsed, first due to the two-year Covid-19 lockdown and now largely due to the Ukraine crisis which has resulted in heavy sanctions on the trade landscape. The aviation industry is still struggling to float and maintain normal operations.

At the Eastern Economic Forum, panelists in the session titled “Travel East: Opportunities for Investors and Tourists” clearly noted the negative external factors of the tourism industry and argued for measures to its recovery. The director of Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism), Zarina Doguzova, calls for a review of policies that negatively impact the industry. She considers that the consular services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paralyze the development of the tourism industry and that Russia is friendlier due to its reciprocal responses to foreign countries.

Doguzova explained in an interview with Rossiya-24 (VGTRK) on the sidelines of the forum that the necessary measures to support tourism, including the launch of an electronic visa program for citizens of 52 countries, including those that Russia designated as “hostile” in the near future.

Russia had previously planned to launch electronic visas for citizens of 52 countries, including European countries, she said. Certainly, it is necessary to do information work and launch an advertising campaign. Many are afraid to visit us for various obvious reasons resulting directly from constant clashes and geopolitical changes.

“Foreign tourists contribute to earning tens of billions of dollars worldwide. These are significant revenues that would spur infrastructure development and help create new jobs. It is strategically important to communicate our position to the world, so that tourists, citizens of countries whose governments take hostile measures towards our country, have a chance to see Russia,” Doguzova said.

Earlier during a meeting of the presidium of the Russian State Council dealing with the development of tourism on September 6, Doguzova asked President Vladimir Putin to review plans to launch electronic visas for citizens of 52 countries, without following the principle of reciprocity, which Russia usually adheres to. regarding visas.

Putin suggested developing this proposal “without clinging to reciprocity”. during the forum session, Putin said that Russia would not respond symmetrically to the decision of the European Union to suspend the visa facilitation agreement with Russia.

He expressed a desire to develop the idea of ​​expanding the practice of visa-free travel for citizens of specific countries, including those visiting Russia on organized group trips, and further offered to develop bilateral cooperation on the establishment of a framework for visa-free travel with foreign countries.

“I would suggest not talking about some [nations with whom visa-free travel could be established]. Nothing should be imposed on anyone. We should just talk about cooperation on a bilateral way. Regarding the establishment of visa-free travel on a bilateral basis to facilitate mutual visits, guidance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is needed,” he said.

“In principle, I would not retain reciprocity in this case. I know the general principle of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the principle of reciprocity. When it comes to serving our interests, all of these principles should be used where beneficial. If something creates obstacles for us, what are these principles for? We could be more flexible,” Putin said.

Russians have limited their trips abroad due to current global changes, especially the confrontation between the United States, Europe and Russia. According to the decision of the European Council published in the Official Journal of the EU, the members of the European Union have suspended the visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Russia.

“The application of the Agreement between the European Community and the Russian Federation on the facilitation of the issuance of visas to citizens of the European Union and the Russian Federation (“the Agreement”) is suspended in its entirety in with regard to citizens of the Russian Federation, from September 12, 2022,” the statement reads on its website. It is assumed that the cost of visas and the conditions for their registration will increase significantly, the issuance of visas for tourism will be the consulates’ last priority.

Poland and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have coordinated restrictions for Russians. In their statement, Poland and the Baltic states expressed concern “about the substantial and growing influx of Russian citizens into the European Union and the Schengen area across our borders. We believe this is becoming a serious threat to public security and to the entire shared Schengen area,” according to the European Commission.

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