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Czech Republic and Slovakia promised to issue multiple-entry visas

08:07, 21 января 2013

On the eve of Christmas holidays two countries at once - the Czech Republic and Slovakia – have decided to pursue a more loyal visa policy in regard to Russians. Thus, starting from January 2013, the Czechs will be issuing a multiple entry visa for a year for Russians upon condition that they already have got one multiple or two single-entry Schengen visas. Operators were officially informed on it by the Czech Consulate.


There were no official announcements from the Consulate of Slovakia; however, the local media gave detailed information from the press-conference of the Minister of foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajcak about Slovakia’s intent to issue Russians multiple entry Schengen visa valid for two years. Moreover, those who already have Schengen visas can get visa for five years. The Consulate also promised to reduce the time of issuing visas to several days.


Due to its geographic proximity and its location in the heart of Europe, both countries complement each other and perfectly go together as a combined tour. Along with Hungary and Poland, they remain the most affordable. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are very different and can’t be compered by demand on Russian travel market.


The Czech Republic is at the peak of its popularity now. Since 2001 tourist flow from Russia is growing by 16% annually and has reached the number of 500 thousand people in 2011. Russians take the second place right after main Czech Republic’s tourists – Germans. According to the Czech Tourism, this New Year Prague is expecting about 60 thousand Russians to come. The main international flow through Vaclav Havel Airport Prague accrues on Russia – 60 flights per week to 12 Russian cities. And that’s not counting Charter flights to other Czech cities. There are two main places to visit in Czech Republic - first of all, Prague for excursions, weekends, shopping, and the famous health resorts - Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne. Nevertheless, both Russian and Czech experts are sure, that there could be at least three times more Russians in the Czech Republic, but for visa complicacy about which RATA-news wrote more than once.


Slovakia asserts itself weakly yet. According to Russian statistics the flow of Russians doesn’t overcome three thousand people per year. Nevertheless, it’s growing as well. Local sanatoriums with its treatment are in demand here. For example, Slovakia has appeared in Vande International Tour Company a bit more than half a year ago, exactly in the forefront of growing demand. According to the manager of the destination Yulia Ovchinnikova, the country is promising, first of all due to its low prices: “Europe is missing such a budget option. All the more, besides the treatment, ski holidays can be offered in Slovakia. Lately a lot has been done here to improve the infrastructure”. Plans of the Slovak Consulate can only be welcomed as now it takes about two weeks to get visa to the country; and a multiple-entry visa will be an additional motivation to good prices, believes the interlocutor.


However, most of the operators dealing with the Czech Republic keep Slovakia mostly as an alternative. “We didn’t notice any special burst of demand for Slovakia. It is not excluded that the opportunity to obtain a multiple-entry Schengen visa will change the situation. Prices of treatment at the Slovak resorts are very attractive; this country has its own client», - told the Director of Vendi Tour Group Company Irina Fedina to RATA-news. However, according to her, it’s still difficult to predict whether the visa policy will increase the tourist flow, as not everything is decided by visas. Yulia Ovchinnikova agrees that along with the entry simplification a suitable transportation is needed. “Now only UTair has flights to Bratislava and there are not enough of them. There are problems with trains as well. If someone wants to travel to Tatry in winter – train takes a lot of time and the flights are inconvenient”, - she explained. By the way, according to the Slovak statistics, there were 24% more Russians at sky resorts last winter and a lot of them travelled by their own cars.


According to the Director of Travelsystem Company Irina Lurie, the Czech Republic has an excess of conveyance. “The destination is very popular and this year there’s an obvious excess of both regular and charter flights. I believe despite the demand, there are problems with loading and a lot of flights go west”, - she noted. The interlocutor believes after introduction of the multiple-entry visas to the Czech Republic, tour operators will lose some of their clients. A lot of them will command the services of tour operators only for the first time travel, and afterwards will be organizing their vacations themselves. “On the other hand we work with several European destinations which started issuing multi-entry visas long time ago. And yet we felt no serious customer attrition”, - she said.


Experts also believe that Slovakia is not promoted in Russia very well. “The Czech Republic already has it, that’s why current visa initiative is a very good chance to increase the flow, - says Irina Fedina. – Until then it was not an easy thing to obtain visa to The Czech Republic; and it slowed down the demand. Our office in St. Petersburg was a good example: as soon as special offers were issued, they were immediately snatched up as a lot of tourists here have multiple-entry Finnish visas”, - she explained.  According to her, the joy is extinguished by the fact that starting from 2014 Schengen countries an obligatory procedure of biometrics, which means that every tourist will have to go to the Consulate personally.


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