The Russian National Tourist Office declares that it is “absolutely not” going through a tough time while diplomatic relationships with the west are at a 20-year low.
“We honestly can’t say that it is difficult to promote Russia,” says Ekaterina Mikulskaia, business development manager.
“Russia always is and always will be an interesting destination to visit. It’s full of history, great architecture, art and amazing food – and with great restaurants. Everyone who wants to travel there does travel.”
She acknowledges the application time for visas is a challenge. Processing time for a standard visa takes about 20 working days, with an express service taking four working days. Before the Novichok poisoning incident in the UK, it took seven and one working days respectively for equivalent services.
Hosting the World Cup this summer could well prove the key to the rehabilitation of Russia’s reputation as a welcoming nation for tourists.
“We were all so happy to see how all these myths about Russia and Russian people just fell apart,” says Mikulskaia. “Thousands from around the world could not fake the pleasure of being there and enjoy such a great sporting event in great company.”
Visitor figures have yet to bear out the results of hosting the football tournament; 2018 results have not been released, but in 2016 177,000 Brits visited, a number that went up to 178,000 in 2017.
“We do believe that tourism and art will save this bridge between our countries and people will understand that politics have nothing to do with tourism. We invite everyone to visit Russia and have their own experience, as much as we are trying to convince Russians to travel to the UK.”
Visit Russia hosted a media fam trip in September and plans another to build on the success of the World Cup.