72-hour visa-free stay in Russia for transit passengers
The Government Commission on legislative activities approveda bill aimed at reducing the visa barriers to develop the inbound tourism. The draft of the federal law on the entry and departure was developed by the Ministry of Culture of Russia in accordance with the request of the government.
The bill stipulates that the foreign citizens (the list is to be approved by the Government of the Russian Federation) flying through Russia for the travel purpose and through international airports (the list will also be determined by the government) will be able to stay on the territory of our country for 72 hours without a visa.
The draft law will be reviewed within the Government session of Russia.
The visa regime and the high cost of transportation are among the most serious problems of the development of inbound tourism in Russia. Therefore, the decision of the Government Commission to support the bill would be an important step of visa procedure simplification for the citizens of the economically developed countries. It will be recalled that the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky after his designation in May, 2012, pose this question to the nation’s leadership. The question was raised by the Federal Agency for Tourism, federation members, in particular the governors of St. Petersburg and Khabarovsk region.
After the meeting with the capital’s representatives of the travel industry in September 2011 and on behalf of the Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin, proposals of visa regime simplification for those who enter the country for 72 hours were gathered. In May, 2012, Vladimir Putin charged to consider the proposals.
In 2012 the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) made some suggestions regarding the issue to the Ministry of Culture and the Government of the Russian Federation as well. Moreover, the RUTI and the St. Petersburg administration already have a positive experience in promoting the bill on the introduction of the 72-hour visa-free entry for passengers of the cruise ships in 2003, and sea ferries in 2008.
It was supposed that the introduction of 72-hour visa-free regime will help to increase the inbound tourist flow not only to Moscow (by 20-30% a year), but also to increase the consumption of the travel services from 13.1 billion to 19.7 billion rubles and will increase the income from the services provided by the hotels from 3.6 billion to 5.4 billion rubles. After a year and a halt of prior agreement of the bill, the only category of foreigners under the order turned to be transit air travelers. At the same time, about 2.5 million citizens of foreign countries came to the country through Moscow airports, 166 thousands of them were transit passengers. Therefore the effect of the cut-down version of the bill will not be as significant as expected.
The liberalization of the visa regime with the economically developed countries on a unilateral basis has many opponents. And the fact the project was supported by the government commission can be considered intermediate, but a milestone in the process of simplifying the travel formalities.