St. Petersburg asks for 72 visa-free hours for air travelers

St. Petersburg authorities ask to grant visa free access only to organized tourist groups St. Petersburg authorities ask to grant visa free access only to organized tourist groups (Photo by Pixabay)

Governor of Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, Georgy Poltavchenko asked president Vladimir Putin to introduce a 72-hour visa-free regime for foreigners coming to the city by air, RIA Novosti reports quoting Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI). If the step is approved it may help to significantly increase the passenger traffic of St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport which has been a fervent advocate of such step for several years.

Easing visa restrictions is meant to concern only those tourists coming to St. Petersburg as part of organized groups. According to RUTI, the initiative should be first approved Russia’s Security Council secretary and foreign minister.

Northern Capital Gateway (NCG), Pulkovo airport operator, stand for introducing a 72-hour visa-free regime for air travelers. The operator hopes the measure will first of all spike the interest towards St. Petersburg among the European tourists who could visit the city for a weekend. In 2015 NCG estimated the visa-free regime might add one million passengers to the yearly airport traffic. It may also help to attract new foreign airlines to Pulkovo which will help to increase the number of transit passengers. However, NCG believes this is possible only coupled with the open skies regime.

Attracting new passengers is crucial for Pulkovo as its stake on Rossiya airline turned out to be misplaced: the airline owner Aeroflot group is focusing on its main hub in Moscow. In 2016 Pulkovo served 13.265 million passengers which is 1.7% less than the year before.

72-hour visa-free regime in St. Petersburg has been introduced for water transport passengers since 2009. According to TASS, about eight million foreigners have used the opportunity to visit the city without getting a visa since then.

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