Russia plans to give their hard-hit tourism industry a boost by introducing special corona vaccine tours for foreign travellers who desperately want a Sputnik jab.
With a handful of COVID-19 vaccines being admitted for use by medical authorities, countries across the world have started to vaccinate their population against the corona virus.
While some countries such as the UK, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are off to a great start, other countries such as Bulgaria and the Netherlands are only vaccinating at a snail’s pace.
The situation is even worse in South America and Africa, where many countries are only expected to get their hands on a meaningful amount of vaccines in a few years from now.
Even in some countries which have rolled out their vaccination campaign, it might still take multiple months until the elderly, the medically vulnerable and essential workers such as doctors and teachers have been vaccinated and it might finally be the turn of the younger generations.
Those who cannot wait to get a vaccine might soon have an alternative, faster way to get their jabs: by joining a special corona tour to Russia.
According to Russian newspaper Izvestia, the Russian tourism industry is preparing to offer “corona vaccine tourism” packages.
One of these companies is Intourist, which older generations might still know as the state travel agency of the Soviet Union. The Russian company, which has since entered the private market and is now in the hands of Turkish company Anex Tours after being previously owned by Thomas Cook, plans to organise special charter flights to Russia for people who want to get a vaccine and are willing to pay for it.
Intourist CEO Viktor Topolkaraev said: “The high interest of partners and ordinary foreign citizens in getting vaccinated with the Russian vaccine speaks of a high trust in our medicine around the world.”
Russia has developed its own vaccine, which it called Sputnik V. Although this vaccine was initially met with scepticism among many western politicians and the media, it has reportedly shown its effectiveness.
Yesterday, a peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet found that the Sputnik V shot was 91.6% effective in a large-scale trial, a promising figure which is similar to those of the vaccines developed in the United States and Europe.
Russia’s Sputnik V shot was 91.6% effective in a large-scale trial, according to a peer-reviewed study in the Lancet; similar efficacy reported for adults over 60 https://t.co/IE1aWcjtwz
— Georgi Kantchev (@georgikantchev) February 2, 2021
How would corona tourism look like?
Intourist is currently in negotiations with medical institutions and hotels to create a special vaccination package for foreign tourists.
CEO Topolkaraev said that tourists will likely have to stay at least 25 nights in Russia in order to receive two jabs of the Sputnik vaccine.
It is unclear weather foreign travellers will be allowed out of their hotel and can roam the streets freely before they have received both vaccine shots.
Currently, Russia has closed its borders for foreign tourists altogether, which means that these special corona tours would need to be approved by the authorities as well unless the country changes its current entry requirements.
Russia was originally supposed to introduce their exciting new e-visa programme this year, although that has been temporarily suspended due to the outbreak of the corona pandemic.
It would allow visitors from 52 different countries, among which many European and Asian states, to travel to Russia for a maximum of 16 days by applying for the visa online – a much easier procedure compared to what is currently in place.
For a normal Russia visa, you need to apply at the embassy with a Letter of Invitation (LOI) issued by a Russian travel agency or private person or company.
Citizens from the US, UK and Canada are unfortunately excluded from the future e-visa regime and would still need to apply for a full Russian visa the old-fashioned way. The same counts for those who are covered by the e-visa regime but who want to stay longer than 16 days or who require a multiply-entry visa.
Would I get a Sputnik vaccine?
If the opportunity would arise, I would have absolutely no qualms getting a Sputnik V vaccine as I fully trust the Russian vaccine, being fully aware that the country has a long and proud history when it comes to medicine and science.
I’m however not sure whether or not I would travel to Russia for corona vaccine tourism purposes in its current presented form.
If the price is right and I could roam freely outside between the two jabs of the Sputnik vaccine, I might very well be interested in it if the outlook of getting a vaccine quickly enough in my home country is dire.
However, I would never hop on such a corona tour if it would mean having to quarantine in a hotel between the two vaccine shots or having to stay in a some sort of travel bubble. I’d only be interested if I could visit the wonderful sights of Russia in the meanwhile and would be free to mingle with the local population.
Whether or not it will be suitable for me, I still like the concept a lot and appreciate the creative thinking by Intourist. It could be a win-win situation for both the Russian tourism industry as well as for individual travellers.
The concept is not even completely unheard of, as medical tourism is booming in many parts of the world, so why not do it with the corona virus vaccine when other countries do it with plastic surgery, dentistry and all kinds of therapies?
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