Russia has proposed a visa-free travel regime to Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said during the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF).
“We are exploring the topic of making the transition to visa-free travels,” TASS quoted Reshetnikov as saying on Monday.
He pointed out that Moscow is especially looking at countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and has already proposed scrapping visas for these five countries.
“This is where incremental growth of premium class tourists is possible in particular,” Reshetnikov added. “That’s why we are interested in it.”
This move builds on similar agreements reached with China in August when Russia and China started to allow tour groups visit without visas based on an agreement between their governments.
Reshetnikov admitted that the system Russia has with China and Iran is not perfect, so the government is working on making it better. A similar deal was also offered to India.
The plan is to do away with tourist visas for citizens from these countries and Russians visiting the five nations. Some experts think this could be a big deal and attract more tourists, especially during the summer season. Russia is a hot spot for business travelers from these countries, but the potential for regular vacationers is much higher, as pre-pandemic data suggests. Most of them head to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, since Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022, many Western countries banned Russian planes from their airspace. Russia responded with tit-for-tat measures. Some countries, like Czechia and Estonia, stopped giving visas to Russians. According to Statista, all of this, plus higher prices, made it less appealing for Russians to travel abroad in 2022.
Some experts also believe Russia is not safe because it is close to the Ukraine war zone. There have been reports of drone attacks, explosions, and fires in parts of Western and Southern Russia near the Ukraine border, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Along with visas and safety concerns, tourists have had trouble paying for things in Russia as Visa, MasterCard, and UnionPay have suspended operations in Russia.