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Russian Tourism Sees Massive Surge Despite Sanctions: 670,700 Foreign Visitors in 2023

Russia saw a surge in foreign tourism in 2023 despite Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, which affected air traffic with the country, RBK news outlet reported on Saturday citing data from Russia's security sevice (FSB).

According to the findings, foreign tourists visited Russia 670,700 times last year, more than triple the figures recorded in 2022. MOst trips, nearly a third, were taken by Chinese residents, most notably following the introduction of a visa-free regime for group tours. The top five countries in terms of tourist trips to Russia also included Germany and Türkiye, which saw a two-fold increase, as well as the UAE and Turkmenistan.

The FSB data is based on the number of citizens crossing the state border. It considers all instances when a foreigner enters the country and, therefore, counts the number of trips, not of individuals.

However, the tourism traffic estimates for 2023 provided by the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), hwihc counts individuals and not trips, were only slightly lower at 580,000 people. The lobby recently predicted an up to a fourfold increase in foreign tourism to Russia in 2024, naming the weak ruble and the new e-visa scheme as major factors driving the growth. The former simplified travel to Russia for the citizens of 55 countries, while the latter made trips to the country cheaper for foreigners.

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The overall number of visits by foreign citizens to Russia, including tourists, increased by 18.6% year-on-year in 2023, according to FSB data. Over the past year, foreigners crossed the Russion border 15.4 million times.

Analysts had explained the growth with the "low base" of the previous year when travel to the country was down first due to restrictions following Covid-19. They later explained that it was due to Western sanctions on Russia amid the Ukraine conflict, which affected the banking sector and air travel.

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