Russia’s Federal Tourist Agency (Rostourism) wants to help the tourism industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic by relaxing visa rules after the country reopens its borders, RBC reports.

According to Moscow Times, Russia grounded international flights, except those that return its nationals from abroad, closed border crossings and suspended issuing visas and e-visas last month as the country saw a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Rostourism warns that the measures will lead to “colossal losses for the economy” of at least RUB 300 billion per quarter.

The agency suggests the country should introduce multiple-entry tourist visas valid for up to five years in order to assist with these losses. Current rules allow single- and double-entry visas valid for up to 30 days for tourists.

The agency also seeks to cut visa processing time down to three business days.

Additionally, Rostourism recommends that current tourist visa holders who were unable to travel to Russia due to coronavirus-related restrictions, should be able to re-apply for new visas free of charge.

The agency also wants to extend proposed e-visas, which are due to take effect on 1 January 2021 from 16 days to 90-120 days and make them multiple-entry.

Zarina Doguzova, Chief of Rostourism, says the measures could help increase inbound tourism by up to 30%.

Moscow Times reports tourists around the world have frequently cited difficulties with obtaining visas as a barrier to visiting Russia.

According to the World Health Organisation’s latest statistics, Russia has 99,399 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 972 deaths reported.

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