Moscow: Russia is making an active bid to attract Indian travellers to visit Moscow -- a huge megalopolis and the historical, political and spiritual heart of the Russian Federation.
The Moscow City Tourism Committee is promoting the city not only as a cultural capital but also as a business hub as it plans to onboard trade partners, tourists and vacationers.
Moscow has also strengthened cooperation with the tourism sectors of allied nations, hosting familiarization tours for delegates and arranging business trips to showcase the city's tourism potential.
To accommodate visitors, Moscow is improving its infrastructure: signs are now available in English and Chinese, all announcements on public transport are repeated in English, and hotels are also adapting to cater to the needs of guests from various countries and ensure a comfortable stay.
"We are still on our way to restore the flow of Indian tourists in Moscow like it used to be before the pandemic," said Bulat Nurmukhanov, Head of International Cooperation Division of Moscow City Tourism Committee.
Bulat further said that before the pandemic, there was a steady growth of 12-15 per cent on a year-on-year basis. In the first half of the year, Moscow received about 20,000 Indians, compared to the same period a year ago, it is about 56 per cent higher.
In a bid to make Moscow a must-visit destination, the committee is actively working on improving the infrastructure for international travellers. Moscow is spearheading the development of innovative standards in catering to the needs of foreign travellers.
Tourists arriving in the capital can stay in hotels of various price segments. They can savour traditional Russian cuisine, and can also indulge in a diverse culinary experience, with options ranging from authentic Indian delicacies to continental dishes prepared to the highest standards.
In 2022, the number of foreign tourists who visited Moscow increased by 6.3 per cent compared to 2021, reaching a total of 1.7 million.
Travelling to Moscow has now become easier as tourists from India and 54 other countries can apply for an electronic visa to enter Russia from August 1, 2023.
The impact of e-visa rollout would be available by October this year after the quarterly data from the Russian border control agencies is analysed, Bulat said.
Moreover, the Russian government is planning to come out with a virtual 'Foreign Tourist Card' that will enable cashless payments for various services.
"The idea behind this card is, a person back home in India can remotely apply for this card and then he/she can transfer money from the personal bank account to this bank account," Bulat added.
Meanwhile, sources in the Indian Embassy in Moscow told reporters that the Indian tourism ministry as well as the governments of Goa and Kerala are slated to participate in roundtable discussions this month.
There are also plans to engage social media influencers to improve the inward traffic to India. Before the pandemic, around 3 lakh Russian tourists visited India annually. The numbers are down to around 80,000-90,000 of late.
To facilitate easy visitor movement across the city, there is "Discover Moscow" -- a navigation and travel web portal about Moscow and "RUSSPASS travel service" -- a digital platform designed for planning trips across Russia.
The Discover Moscow portal features descriptions of over 1,200 architectural landmarks in Moscow. The site provides news, digests with festival and event information and curated lists of exhibition venues.
By availing the RUSSPASS travel service, tourists can access all essential information for a trip to Moscow on the site, including visa and currency matters, accommodation and transportation options in the capital.
The site also offers a trip builder feature, allowing tourists to select pre-designed city routes or create their own itinerary from their favourite locations. There are versions of the site in Russian, English, Spanish and Arabic.
On the cultural scene, Moscow boasts 10,000 cultural venues including theaters, museums, libraries, parks, cinemas, co