24 May 2024 20:46

Russian travel firms report soaring demand for tours to China

MOSCOW. May 24 (Interfax) - Russia's demand for tours to China surpasses the figures for the pre-pandemic year of 2019, while the bulk of tourists prefer travelling with individual visas, not as members of groups under the agreement on visa-free group trips, the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) said, citing data from tour operators.

"We now sell more tours than before the pandemic, and the maximum advance purchase period has increased a lot from 2019. People are now buying [tours for] September, October; this didn't happen before," Sergei Sedov, owner of the company Go China, said.

The maximum advance purchase period for tours to China is now one year, said Yevgeny Glotov, head of the marketing department at China Travel.

"The demand is high, vacations to Hainan and sightseeing tours are selling well. The maximum advance purchase period has also increased - our popular ten-day Grand Tour to China is selling for departure dates until May 2025, to say nothing of the New Year period, for which the groups are practically sold out," Glotov said.

The company Fun&Sun also reported a high demand for tours to China.

"The top sales include Hainan, as well as excursion tours to the mainland with visits to Beijing, Shanghai and some other cities," the tour operator's director for public relations Olga Ivanova said.

As reported earlier, the list of tour operators authorized to send groups to China, which was updated by the Economic Development Ministry this week, includes 590 companies, which is 200 more than was on the first list. It takes effect on May 27. However, not all tourists are ready to fly on group visas due to the restrictions associated with them.

"According to the terms of the agreement on visa-free group travel, signed by the governments of Russia and China in 2000 and re-launched on August 1, 2023, visa-free tourist trips can only take place in groups of tourists composed of five to 50 people, formed by authorized tour operators. All tourists included in the list must fly in China together, travel within the country together, and also fly back together. If one member of a group does not come to the airport in Russia or after the end of the tour, the group visa is annulled. In addition, such visas can be used to visit only those Chinese cities that have direct flights to Russia, not all cities," the Russian Union of Travel Industry said.

The owner of Go China said many Russian tour firms, seeing the growing popularity of China, apply for inclusion in the list of authorized companies, but very few of them really form groups of tourists.

According to the Border Guard Service of the Russian Federal Security Service, Russian citizens made 327,000 visits to China in the first quarter of 2024, of which around a half (163,000) were made for tourist purposes.