Even as Russia continues with its military operations against Ukraine, the country’s capital city Moscow is working to woo international tourists, especially travellers from India. Incidentally, India is one of the few countries that have stayed out of Western resolutions and sanctions against Russia, and the two nations share bilateral ties going back decades.
In order to attract tourists from across the world, the Moscow City Tourism Committee is taking several measures. Also, to address payment-related issues, the Russian government is planning to launch a virtual ‘Foreign Tourist Card’, which will enable cashless payments for various services.
“We are still on our way to restoring the flow of Indian tourists in Moscow like it used to be before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, there was very steady growth, like 12-15 per cent on a year-on-year basis,” said Bulat Nurmukhanov, Head of International Co-operation Division of Moscow City Tourism Committee.
During the COVID pandemic, the tourist flow to Moscow had dropped significantly. However, the number of Indian tourists visiting Moscow is slowly witnessing an uptick. With tourist-friendly measures like e-visa, this number is likely to grow in the coming months.
Travelling to Moscow has now become easier as tourists from India and 54 other countries can apply for an electronic visa to enter Russia from August 1, 2023.
Moreover, initiatives like the Foreign Tourist Card would help address payment-related issues, after the departure of MasterCard and Visa from the Russian market, said Nurmukhanov. “There is an initiative by the Federal Government of Russia to develop a ‘Foreign Tourist Card’. The initiative is under process; some legislative documents have been amended in order to make this card possible.”
The Moscow tourism official said, “The idea behind this card is, a person back home in India can remotely apply for this [virtual] card and then he/she can transfer money from the personal bank account to this bank account.”
To give more travel options to tourists, in March this year, the Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot increased the frequency of its flight services on the Delhi-Moscow route to seven times a week against four weekly services earlier.
India and Russia have “in principle” recently agreed to revise their bilateral air services agreement, allowing Russian carriers to operate up to 64 flights per week from 52 to India. Russian carriers are allowed to operate these flights to six Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata, Amritsar, and Ahmedabad.
“We are really looking forward to the Indian Airlines to restore their flight connections to Moscow. Right now, only Aeroflot is operating flights between Delhi and Goa. However, there are some other options available from Dubai to Moscow,” said Nurmukhanov.
In a bid to tackle the language barrier that makes arriving in and navigating in a new country quite intimidating, there are seven tourist centres across Moscow. The city also has a call centre for foreign tourists in case they need any help. “We are working on translating the city navigation into English. Our businesses are really active and quick to respond to what the market requires,” said Nurmukhanov.