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Russia suggests India should simplify tourist visa issuance procedure

According to the Russian culture minister, last year 170,000 Russians visited India as tourists

NEW DELHI, November 10. /TASS/. Russia has suggested India should sign an intergovernmental agreement on simplified via issuance, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky told Russian reporters in India on Friday.

"Of course, simplifying the visa regime would become the crucial factor here (in the growth of the tourist flow - TASS). This is either complete abolishment of mutual visas or at least a shift to the Chinese version when group visas are issued in a simplified order. We presented the corresponding initiative, the Russian Foreign Ministry supported us, and now the Indian side is considering the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on simplified visa issuance," Medinsky said on Friday, ahead of the film festival dubbed "Russian Film Days in India" that kicked off on Friday in the Indian capital.

"Though, of course, we can also follow the [South] Korean variant, when a few years ago visas with South Korea were abolished, which caused an uptick in the tourism flow to Russia from this country: up 70% in the first year," the minister added.

Medinsky noted that tourism to India used to be unilateral: Russians mostly went to the tourist state of Goa; educational tourism was also developing. According to the minister, last year 170,000 Russians visited India as tourists, up 30% since 2015.

Expectations from the agreement

"However, Indian tourism in Russia has also been growing in the recent years. That said, wealthy people are coming, Indians who live in good hotels, who pay a lot, and this is a good client for the Russian tourism business, for our industry of hospitality. Last year, 70,000 Indians came to Russia with tourist visas," Medinsky noted.

He noted that if an agreement on the simplified visa issuance procedure or on visa abolishment is signed, the tourism flow from India to Russia will soar high.

"Presently, Russia is one of the most attractive countries for the European countries’ tourism. St. Petersburg was recognized as a tourist city number one in Europe this year by the value-for-money ratio, the level of service and the range of tourist attractions. Moscow now is the cleanest and safest metropolitan city in the world. Other areas - the Golden Ring [a group of historic Russian cities northeast of Moscow], the Urals, the Caucasus and the Crimea - are also actively developing," the minister said.

"We’ve got things to show," Medinsky concluded.