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Crimea to keep visa-free status for Chinese tourists visiting peninsula

November 15, 2016, 19:07 UTC+3 SIMFEROPOL

Russia and China signed an inter-governmental agreement on visa-free trips for organized tour groups in 2000

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© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

SIMFEROPOL, November 15 /TASS/. Crimea will preserve visa-free mechanisms for Chinese tourists in 2017 under a Russian-Chinese agreement allowing Russian and Chinese tourists to cross borders without visas, the Crimean Ministry of Resorts and Tourism reported on Tuesday.

"The Ministry of resorts and tourism is preparing a list of travel operators willing to receive and service Chinese tourists in 2017," the ministry’s report said adding the lists of tourism operators would be ready before the year’s end.

Russia and China signed an inter-governmental agreement on visa-free trips for organized tour groups (those who book their tours through travel agencies) in 2000. Crimea, which became part of Russia after the March 2014 referendum, used visa-free schemes to receive the first official group of Chinese tourists in September 2016. The second group of Chinese tourists visited the peninsula a month later.

On March 11, 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council adopted a declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea amidst a political crisis and the change of power in Ukraine. More than 80% of Crimea’s residents took part in a referendum on March 16, 2014 in which 96.77% of the voters in the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% in the city of Sevastopol favored reunification with Russia.

The Treaty on Accession of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia was signed between representatives of the Republic of Crimea (including Sevastopol) and the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014 to lay out terms for the immediate admission of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects of Russia and parts of the Russian Federation.

Crimea has turned into Russia’s major resort region starting in 2014. Almost 4.6 million people visited the peninsula last year. According to Alexey Chernyak, head of the Crimean parliamentary committee in charge of health resorts and tourism, the peninsula is gearing up to receive 6 million vacationers this year.

Chinese tourists will now have a chance to fly to the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi.

The first direct flights from China’s Chengdu to the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi will be launched in spring 2017, the press office for Sochi international airport’s owner, Basel Aero, said on Tuesday.

"The Sochi international airport plans to establish a direct air link with the Chinese town of Chengdu in the spring of 2017. Apart from that, the administrations of (Russia’s) Krasnodar territory, the Sochi municipal administration and representatives of the Basel Aero airports, are studying the possibility of launching direct flights to and from another six Chinese cities: Beijing, Zh·ngzh·u, Urumqi, Shanghai, Kunming, Shanghai and Guangzhou," the Basel Aero report said.

The company added that an agreement to initiate direct flights from Chengdu to Sochi had been struck as part of the "open sky" regime effective as of October 2014.

Foreign airlines can organize direct international flights to Sochi without restrictions. They can also make transit flights to third countries via Sochi where they can take new passengers onboard. The "open sky" regime will be in effect in Sochi until the 2018-2019 winter season.

Previous TASS reports said that a familiarization tour of Sochi would be organized for major Chinese travel operators and journalists during the Sochi International Forum for Tourism scheduled for November 22-26. Russian tourists and inhabitants of the nation’s southern regions will be able to use the Sochi airport to visit China after the opening of direct flights from Chengdu.

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