Formally, the visa-free regime with China resumed in February after the end of the pandemic. But in reality, no one has yet sent tour groups to China without visas. The mechanism for visa-free entry to China is not yet in place. “Now this issue is at the stage of technological coordination and approval of the lists of tour operators that can apply for visa-free entry of the group,” explains Dmitry Gorin, vice-president of the Russian Union of the Travel Industry. But exact dates for the start of this mechanism have not yet been determined, he adds.
As of March 15 it is possible to obtain individual visas. They are in demand. According to the participants of the tourist market, it is now possible to contract individual visas, depending on the city, in April or even at the end of May. All the slots for the recording fill up quickly, and there are not many of these slots, only a few hundred visas are issued per week.
Consequently, and as such, there are still no trips to China, explains Sergey Golov, president of the Union of Travel Agencies. According to him, now mainly businessmen go to China, package tours have not yet been formed.
But it’s not just the idle visa-free regime. “Tour operators have to rely on something when selling tours, particularly the volume of transportation,” Golov says. For now, he says, negotiations are just underway and tour operators tied to airline flight schedules are waiting for certainty to emerge.
While trips to China are quite expensive. Just a round-trip ticket from Moscow to Beijing will cost about 65 thousand rubles in both directions. A week-long tour, according to aggregators, will cost more than 200 thousand rubles for two without food. Visa-free tours will be cheaper, as tour operators rely on charter flights.
Now the main flow to China comes from the Khabarovsk and Amur regions, Golov notes. Especially those who have been in business for the last three years and couldn’t go to China. It will take some time for the situation to stabilize.
“Also, at the moment we don’t have as many opportunities for long-haul air transport to spend the volumes available in China. There are many other directions,” says Golov.
There are now flights to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Gorin notes. If flights to Harbin are opened, there is a possibility that visa-free entry using some separate technology will start there. In any case, such information came from the airline Aeroflot, say some market participants.
In any case, in February, Aeroflot reported that it could increase the frequency of flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou -up to daily, to Chengdu- up to three times a week. The airline was scheduled to launch the new seasonal schedule starting March 26.
In an airline statement dated March 24, the airline confirmed the transition to DST starting March 26, but there is no talk of expanding flights to China.