Thousands of visitors have obtained the new Russia eVisa which, at the moment, only grants access to the Primorsky Krai region (situated in the east of Russia), where Vladivostok is located.
However, the government is expected to expand the electronic visa system next year, from January 1, to include the Kamchatka and Sakhalin territories of the Russian Far East through other arrival points (currently all the eVisa arrivals come through Vladistock).
Operators have said that they are encouraged by the numbers so far although the numbers are not yet high enough to significantly boost tourism spending. However, the figures are expected to increase when the electronic visa system expands.
So far the largest demographic of visitors to apply for the Russia eVisa, using the new scheme, have come from China, who make up around a half of all applicants. The second biggest demographic to take advantage of the simplified application system to apply for visas to Russia are the Japanese.
The President of the Far Eastern Association of Restauranteurs and Hoteliers, Roman Ivanishchev, said: “Our country is quite difficult to visit from the point of view of obtaining a visa...the new system is of interest and gaining popularity. It opens the region up to last-minute travelers”.
How the current electronic visa works
After completing the initial online Russia eVisa application, the electronic visa must be used within 30 days and allows eight days in Vladivostok.
Applications for the single-entry business, tourist or humanitarian e-visa, are required between four and 20 days before the expected entry date into Vladivostok.
Citizens of 18 countries qualify for the eVisa Russia: Brunei, India, China, North Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Japan, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.
Daria Guseva, Director of the Tourist Information Center of Primorsky Krai, said the simplified electronic visa system opens new opportunities for Russian tourism.
“The possibility of obtaining an electronic visa gives us new options. Thanks to this system, we can invite people from Qatar, Brunei and other countries to partner in ventures that would have been hard to do before," he said.
“Now, through our partners in Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong, which have transit hubs in air routes, we can become part of the cross-border regional transport routes,” he said.
“We are working in Japan with tour operators to maximize group visitor numbers using this simplified visa and the response that we have received from tour operators so far has been very strong,” said Guseva.
Things to see in the Primorsky Krai region
- The Bridge to Russky Island
The massive structure is one of the most expensive bridges ever built and is regarded as one of the country's most significant engineering feats. Crossing the Eastern Bosporus Strait, it features cutting-edge design features which enable it to capable of withstanding the region's extreme climatic conditions. It is the longest cable-stayed suspension bridge in the world and links mainland Vladivostok with a sparsely populated island that is set to become one of the country's major tourist resorts.
- Memorial Submarine S-56 Museum
Enter the submarine, which gained 14 victories during the Second World, and imagine how it must have felt to operate it. In 1975 she was opened as a museum and consists of seven compartments. The museum displays WW2 relics and tells both the submarine's story and the broader story of one of the most documented periods of world history
- The Vladivostok Funicular
The Vladivostok funicular has become a popular tourist attraction despite, despite the short length of its route (it's only 183 meters long). You can enjoy a scenic view over Zolotoy Rog Bay and experience a piece of Russian history. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev began the project to build the 'Big Vladivostok' in 1959 and this funicular was built as part of that plan in 1962.