30 June 2011
Strict Russian visa rules blamed for drop in tourism
Tour operators have blamed the strict Russian visa rules for the drop in the number of visitors to the country from European nations, which fell by up to 24 per cent in the first quarter of 2011.
While official statistics show that the total number of Russian visa vistors rose by five per cent, but the Russian Tourism Industry Union has said "The number of visitors to Russia from countries that have traditionally sent the most tourists has fallen noticeably."
The Union said almost all the international tour operators it spoke to placed the blame of falling European visitor numbers on "the high cost of tourist visas and the complexity of the visa process for foreigners."
Official statistics showed that even neighbouring Finland, which has a link to Saint Petersburg by a high-speed train, saw visitors fall by 24 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period of 2010.
German visitors have also fallen by 10 per cent in the same period, and the numbers of French and Spanish visitors has fallen by 14 per cent.
People wishing to travel to Russia need to acquire an invitation from a hotel, an organisation or a personal friend and upon their arrival, they are required to register with local Russian police.
The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in Russian Visa and immigration services.