Moscow: Amid a “serious decline” of tourists from the West due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia has started to look east towards India and south towards African nations to boost its tourism industry.
The country has started an e-visa facility, a hassle-free process of visa application to attract tourists from across the world, including India, China and African nations.
Bulat Nurmukhanov, the head of the international cooperation division of Moscow city tourism committee, said: “Now, tourists from 55 countries including India will be able to apply for e-visa. It will be very easy to visit Moscow or any other city in Russia as all applications will be processed online. There is no need to visit a consulate or embassy in person. I hope that this will lead to an increase in the number of tourists from India to Moscow.”
He said, with the introduction of e-visa from August 1 this year, there will be no inconvenience in visiting Russia and they will see a surge in international tourist arrivals in the country.
Yana Lyubina, an accredited guide told IANS, “The simplified mechanism for issuing electronic visas for 55 countries including India, introduced from August 1, gives hope for an increase in the flow of entry, regardless of sanctions and the political situation.”
She said the offer, namely a favourable rate, the quality of services provided; personal experience, rich traditions and culture favourably highlight the offer of a trip to Russia.
The visa for Indians for entry into Russia has become cheaper by $78 at $52 instead of $130. However, there is only one direct flight that connects India to Russia.
On this, Nurmukhanov said, “We are looking forward to Indian airlines restoring their flight connections to Moscow. Right now, only Aeroflot is flying to New Delhi and Goa. We also encourage tour operators in India to explore the idea of chartered flights from other cities. There are chartered flights for Russians to Goa.”
On customised service to Indians, Nurmukhanov said that the Moscow City Tourism Committee is continuing its efforts to adapt its infrastructure to Indians, about special preferences and habits, tourist patterns, among others.
He said, everybody in Russia, especially Muscovites, knows mutton curry, masala chicken, and the gastronomic scene in Moscow is very developed with over 19,000 restaurants spread across the city. “We offer excellent service at very affordable prices,” he said.
After Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations in Russia last year over invasion of Ukraine, tourists can make payment only in cash, which is quite a trouble in an era of booming fintech.
Nurmukhanov said: “There is an initiative by the federal government of Russia to develop a foreign tourist card. Some legislation has to be amended, but the idea is to allow Indian tourists to apply remotely for a bank card for mirror payments in Russia and transfer from one’s bank account in India to a bank account in Russia and use local services by scanning QR codes, among others.”
In spite of all the odds, Indian tourists to Russia have grown from last year. About 20,000 Indians have already visited Moscow in the first half of this year, a 56 per cent increase from the same period of the last year.