Will Lowering Visa Entry Fees Help Russia’s Tourism Numbers?
By Sharelle Burt
If you live in the United States, mentioning Russia can be problematic. There is still an active investigation to find out if President Trump has some sneaky dealings with the country. So we can’t blame travelers for side-eyeing their latest move.
At the beginning of the month, Russia randomly lowered their visa entry fee. For U.S citizens, the fee went from $123 to $113. It wasn’t just for US residents because entry fees from other countries fell to $273 from $303. Why the sudden change? Russia is trying to increase tourists efforts since their numbers have gone down drastically, according to the World Tourism Organization. Can you blame them?
Coincidentally enough, the numbers started to decrease between 2016 and 2017, the same year that Trump got elected. Before that, Russia couldn’t stop getting tourists. From 2013 to 2015, there was a jump in “overnight visitors,” going from 30.8 to 33.7 million people. Then in 2016, the numbers fell to 24.6 million and even lower to 24.4 million in 2017. Experts are surprised by this new visa entry fee, especially for a country that has so many problems. “I’ve been doing this for eight years now, and I’ve never seen a country drop their prices down when they’re going through some political turmoil,” Allied Passport representative Steve Gempeler said.
“Often visa fees simply increase due to annual inflation. There are also occasions when relations between countries deteriorate and often this is when governments increase their fees dramatically or make the application process painstakingly difficult and process visas for some nationalities at a much slower pace.”
Lowering the price of a visa may not work in the country’s effort to gain more tourists. The U.S. State Department still has Russia listed under a level two travel advisory, which isn’t the best thing for a country that wants to rehabilitate its image. But Italy, Thailand and the Bahamas hold the same advisory and their numbers are great. Maybe there is hope for Russia after all.