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City news, 09.07.2010 16:34

No visas for St Petersburg

No visas for St Petersburg Russia’s window on the west is planning to cut through the red tape which blocks foreign tourists from coming to town. St. Petersburg Mayor Valentina Matvienko has decided to allow tourists into the city, without visas, for a period of up to 72 hours.

“Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko has proposed visa free stopovers for up to 72 hours, for tourists,” Head of the Department of Tourist Affairs and International Cooperation Nadezhda Nazina announced at a conference on Thursday. “If this pilot project is successful, this scheme could be extended across Russia,” she said.

Tourists can already stay in St Petersburg for 72 hours without a visa if they come on a cruise and spend the night on their boat, but this latest development is an important step beyond that.

“It is too early for an official reaction at this stage,” Press Secretary at the British Embassy James Barbour told The Moscow News, “But I’m sure the tourist industry will welcome it.”

Russia also waived visa requirement when Moscow hosted the UEFA Champions League football final in 2008, allowing fans to use their match tickets in lieu of travel papers. And with the country hoping to host the 2018 World Cup, evidence of a more liberal visa regime can only help persuade FIFA to have for the first time.

There have been moves to ease visa restrictions across Europe this year. Last month the European parliament approved a resolution to promote visa free travel with Russia, following on from a summit in Russia earlier on. Schengen Treaty member Greece also recently announced that it was streamlining visa applications for Russian tourists, cutting the waiting time down to 48 hours.

News source: The Moscow News

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