According to media reports, Russia’s Transport Ministry came up with the idea, in a bid to increase the number of 'yacht tourists' coming to Russia, but has highlighted that the bill is not intended for every port in Russia. Allegedly the commission has said it will make a list of port cities allowed to make the visa exemption, as well as a list of countries to whose citizens the bill applies.
The situation in Russia currently requires that foreign tourists coming into Russian ports by boat a visa and an official invitation from an authorized body, such as a yacht club or port. Cruise ship passengers are currently allowed to stay 72 hours without a visa if they stay overnight on the ship.
Ben Lyons, chief executive officer at EYOS Expeditions believes that this shows signs of Russia opening up towards the tourism that yachts bring. “We’ve certainly seen Russia become more open in terms of welcoming visiting vessels," explains Lyons. "Within the last five years, we secured permission to lead the first foreign-flagged vessel to visit Wrangel Island – the order had to be signed by President Vladimir Putin. Novaya Zemla in particular is a good example of how Russia has changed; once a strictly off-limits site where nuclear weapons were tested, parts of it have recently been turned into an Arctic National Park, and now the first few vessels to be able to call there.”
But, if the bill is passed, would this open up Russia as a more accessible superyacht destination? "Russia has some truly spectacular, and mostly unknown, destinations with wonderful wildlife and stunning scenery," answers Lyons. "For travelling to these remote regions, the three day exemption in this proposed law won’t be a significant help; most visitors will want to stay longer and there are still permits required to visit these pristine areas. But it is emblematic of Russia’s renewed interest in tourism. The region will still be essential for superyachts wanting to visit Russia’s Arctic, but now there is less uncertainty than before about whether permission will be received to visit.”