Russia is expected to earn more revenue from big-spending Chinese tourists who spent $1 billion there in 2014, a figure helped by a devalued ruble amid Western sanctions and tourism promotions between the two countries. Chinese tourists accounted for 16% of all foreign tourists in Russia since the beginning of 2015. Meanwhile, the average amount spent by a Chinese tourist on one trip anywhere is nearly $2,400, according to data from research firm GfK.
"The rising of the middle-income-class in China can explain Chinese tourists' big-spending habits. They pursue luxury jewelry and clothes instead of Russian dolls and souvenirs," said Alexey Maslov, director of the Center for Chinese Strategic Studies.
Besides the geographic proximity of the two countries, the devalued ruble caused by western sanctions also attracts many Chinese tourists to travel in Russia, because they can buy more in Russia than in China with the same amount of money, given Chinese tourists spend 57.8 percent of their tourism budgets shopping, according to the World Tourism Cities Federation.
The two countries share a past brotherhood as former allies, and as Russia's relations with the West stumble amid the Ukraine conflict, Russia has turned eastward and is enjoying increased collaboration with China; multiple new agreements have been signed in recent years.
The "China Friendly" program launched in 2014 seeks to create a comfortable environment for Chinese tourists by giving them language support, among other perks, with Chinese credit cards also accepted in Russia.
The number of Chinese tourists has tripled since last year, according to the Russian government' s tourism agency Rosturizm.
Russia and China also cooperate on red tourism. Chinese tourists are said to enjoy tourism programs with sites in Russia associated with the former Soviet Union and the communist revolution, such as Red Square in Moscow, Lenin’s mausoleum and the cruiser "Aurora".
The red tourism can explain "the average age of Chinese tourists in Russia are often 50 to 60 years old", said Maslov, because older people have some memories with Russia.
To lure more Chinese tourists, Russia still faces challenges such as high prices for goods and services. Safety is also a major concern.