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Russian Tourism - The Sky is Not the Limit

With the global economic crisis leaving no country untouched, Russia has made some adjustments to visa requirements in an effort to soften the blow to its vibrant tourism industry. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently signed a resolution, to come into effect 20 May 2009, which allows foreign tourists arriving in Russia by ferry to remain in the country for a maximum of three days without a visa. This three day free visa concession already applies to passengers arriving by cruise ship.

More than half a million people visit the cities of Kaliningrad and St Petersburg by ferry each year and three days is sufficient for them to see the sights of either of these two fascinating Russian cities. Tourism officials are optimistic that the new visa regulation applying to ferry passengers will contribute to this number doubling in the next year or so. Other ports affected by the new visa ruling include Vladivostok, Sochi, Vyborg, Korsakov and Novorossiisk.

The visa may be free, but not totally without restrictions. Tourists are only permitted to travel through the country with a legitimate tour group sticking strictly to its itinerary. There has been a mixed response from the tourism industry as to this restriction, but many are hopeful that the free visa will nevertheless counteract negative impact from the global economic crisis.

Also relating to Russian tourism is the recent announcement that there would be one seat available for a space tourist on the September 2009 Soyuz trip to the International Space Station. It was also stated that this would not be the last time that a space tourist will be accommodated on the Soyuz capsule. The high-priced space tourist program appeared to be in jeopardy at one stage, mainly due to the fact that NASA will be relying on Russia to transport their astronauts to the International Space Station until they replace their Space Shuttle which needs to be retired from service. U.S. billionaire Charles Simonyi traveled as a space tourist on the Soyuz in March of this year. At a price of around $35 million per trip, it is not likely that there will be a long list of tourists waiting to buy a ticket for the next trip into space.


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