In February of 2012, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a Decree, «The Year of Russian Tourism in People's Republic of China and the Year of the Chinese Tourism in the Russian Federation.» 2012-2013 marks the first time that a decision was made to conduct Years of Two-Way Tourism between Russia and China.
A mutual exchange of national years between Russia and China was successfully conducted earlier in 2006-2007. In 2009-2010 an interchange of Years of Language took place.
China is one of the most important tourist markets for Russia. A mutual exchange of Years of Tourism with China will help Russia and China to demonstrate their rich tourism potential to each other in a broader perspective, and to considerably increase mutual tourist flows. To date, 20 regions of the Russian Federation have direct business contacts in the tourism industry with the Chinese governmental bodies, as well as between representatives of the tourism industry and their associations.
Support for cooperation between Russian and Chinese investment organizations in tourism industry is provided in the context of the Joint Action Plan by the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism and China's State Administration of Tourism. A series of introductory trips, on the basis of which specific investment objects will be selected, is projected.
Annually, up to 30 joint events take place in the field of tourism, education, culture and economics. Among them: tourism forums, forums on education and training for the tourism industry, international tourism exhibitions and presentations. An effective mechanism of cooperation between public authorities in the field of tourism has been well established. Consultations within the Sub-Commission on Tourism of the Russian-Chinese Commission for Humanitarian Cooperation have taken place, and the Russian-Chinese co-ordination group on tourism security has been set up.
In 2011, over 845,500 people came to the Russian Federation from China, an increase of 13% over 2010. About 2.5 million Russians visited China. Today, Russia ranks third on the list of countries that are most frequently visited by the Chinese. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and cities located on the Volga river are the most popular routes among Chinese tourists. Certain brands such as «Golden Ring», «Silver Ring», «Big Volga», «Eastern Ring», «The Altai Mountains» are in big demand.
Russia and China share a border exceeding 4300 km. Geographical proximity also determined the formation of favorable conditions for mutual tourism. Residents of the Middle Kingdom often come to the border areas of the Russian-Chinese border. The routes associated with the theme of «red tourism» — the places associated with the Civil War and World War II are very popular among older residents of China.
A visa-free exchange regime for tourist groups is in place between Russia and China. Since 2000, groups of Chinese citizens of 5-50 people may travel to Russia for up to 15 days without obtaining a visa. In 2010, 80% of Chinese tourists visited Russia without visas; in 2011 this index was 60%. This indicates an improvement in the welfare of Chinese citizens opting in for an individual tourism.
To ensure the safety of Russian and Chinese tourists during their stay in our countries a Protocol of Amendment to the Agreement between the Governments of Russia and China on cooperation in tourism of November 3, 1993 was signed on October 11, 2011 in Beijing as part of the 16th regular meeting between the governments of Russia and China.
On December 1, 2011 pursuant to the provisions of the Protocol on the visa-free channel and in conjunction with China's State Office of Tourism an effective system of insurance coverage for Russian and Chinese tourists was implemented. It excludes the practice of double insurance and provides tourists with a means of contacting help centers in their native languages. Thus, from now on, health insurance is mandatory for all tourists visiting our country. Extending this practice to the visa-travel channel is under way.
In the context of the Year of Russian tourism in China over a hundred of events have been planned at the federal and regional levels. They are aimed at establishing a positive image of Russia in China, promotion of domestic tourism product in the Chinese market, development of cooperation in investment initiatives and attracting Chinese companies to participating in infrastructure projects in Russian regions.
The opening ceremony of the Year of Russian tourism in China was held on March 23, 2012 in Beijing. A Russian-Chinese forum on cooperation in tourism, collaboration of tourism authorities, tourism industry subjects, and joint actions aimed at increasing mutual tourist exchanges took place on March 24. The forum was attended by delegations from Russia's leading regions.
An exhibition of the Russian Federation regions' tourism opportunities took place in the context of Russian-Chinese forum. 12 Russian regions presented their investment projects, including Moscow, Kaluga, Irkutsk and Kaliningrad regions, the Republic of Altai, Altai Territory, the Republic of Buryatia, non-commercial partnership International Associated of Integration in Tourism «Peace Without Borders», JSC «Resorts of the North Caucasus,» and others.
Presentations of Russian regions' tourism potential will be held throughout the entire Year of Russian tourism in China. In March of 2012 Russia took part in the International Exhibition «GITF» in Guangzhou. In June, Russia will be represented at a national exhibition at the International Travel Fair «BITE» in the Chinese capital. Olympic Games in Sochi and projects on the development of tourism in the Russian Federation will be presented there. It is expected that the Russian delegation will participate in the Harbin International Trade and Economic Fair. A series of regional exhibitions, a Beijing-Moscow rally, the «Russia Tourism» expo and a children's drawing contest «Russia and China are forever friends» will be carried out according to the program. A Russian-Chinese forum on the development of cross-border tourism will be held in Russia this September.
Over 40 Russian regions, including Zabaikalsk Territory, Khabarobsk Territory, the Republic of Sahha (Yakutia), Komi, Tatarstan, Altai Territory, Krasnoyarsk Territory, Irkutsk, Kaluga region, Vladimir region, Nizhny Novgorod region, and Novgorod region confirmed their intention to participate in this and other events.
Interregional tourism clusters «Eastern Ring of Russia», «The Tea Way», development projects of cruise tourism on the Amur river, «Baikal harbor», «The Northern world» and others are of great interest to the Chinese. Over 100 events are planned for the duration of the Year of Russian Tourism in China at the federal and regional levels.
It is expected that as a result of the Years of Two-Way Tourism Russia and China will be able to better present their full tourism potential to each other and to increase mutual tourist flows. These events will help to expand bilateral humanitarian and economic ties, strengthen traditional centuries-old friendship between our peoples and to further develop Russian-Chinese relations.