14:03 GMT +318 December 2017
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    A picture taken on September 4, 2015 shows Chinese tourists as they have their photo taken in front of Church of the Savior on Blood  in central St. Petersburg. Drawn by its Communist past and a visa-free regime, Chinese tourists are flocking to Russia in droves as it develops new routes touting red tourism

    Spending Big: Chinese Tourists Spending Abroad Comparable to GDP of Vietnam

    © AFP 2017/ OLGA MALTSEVA
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    The number of Chinese visiting Russia almost doubled in 2015, but the likelihood of their return or the arrival of new tourists is quite limited, due to certain existing stereotypes concerning Russia and problems which continue to trouble the hospitality industry, gazeta.ru reported.

    According to preliminary estimates, more than 1.1 million Chinese citizens visited Russia in 2015 and this number is expected to grow. The Russian tourist industry is adapting its services to cater to Chinese citizens; it has introduced "China Friendly" standards and increased the number of flights between the countries. Meanwhile, the weak ruble made shopping the main attraction for the Chinese tourists, who were quick to take advantage of bargains.

    Chinese tourists are gradually changing the way in which they spend their vacations. Instead of local resorts, they increasingly prefer to travel abroad, to countries like Japan, Germany, Iceland and Australia.

    According to the newspaper, the aggregate amount of money Chinese tourists spend is second to none. Despite the recent slowdown in China's economy, the total amount of money Chinese citizens spent on international vacation travel reached $ 215 billion in 2015, a sum comparable to the GDP of Vietnam, a study conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed.

    Chinese tourists not only dominate in terms of spending, but also in terms of the number of trips they make per year. Over the last year alone, Chinese citizens made 120 million trips abroad, what means that every tenth foreign tourist is a Chinese citizen, China National Tourist Office stated, according to the newspaper. This tendency can be explained by the rise of the Chinese middle class, which has emerged over the last few years alongside the country's rapid increase in consumer wealth.

    Moreover, Russia and China had signed a unique intergovernmental agreement under which Chinese tourists do not necessarily have to get a visa to visit. Instead, the visa can be waived if they join a tour group and are included in a visa-free list; these are arranged for by travel agencies. The groups must consist of five to fifty people, and the duration of the trip should not exceed 15 days.

    Nevertheless, the newspaper noted that the influx of Chinese tourists to Russia may decrease due to inadequate service and a lack of information about travel opportunities in Russia. Some Chinese citizens believe that Russia is a particularly unsafe vacation destination, while others have faced difficulties obtaining medical assistance and using payment cards such as UnionPay, which isn't accepted everywhere.

    Moreover, a large number of guides working with the Chinese have turned out to be unqualified and unable to provide them with full and adequate information about the country.

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