MOSCOW, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Russia-China cooperation on tourism has witnessed substantial progress in recent years, with greater potential to be explored, Alexander Radkov, head of Russian Federal Agency for Tourism (Rosturizm) has said.
"The number of Chinese visitors to Russia saw a quadruple growth in the last five years. Especially in 2012, thanks to the 'The Year of Russian Tourism' in China, it achieved a rise of 47 percent to 343,000," Radkov told Xinhua in an interview conducted ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Russia.
The two neighboring countries have initiated over 200 projects under the framework of the 2012 Tourism Year, including organizing self-driving tours from Beijing to Moscow and filming a feature program about Russia.
"We also held nine exhibitions on tourism and four specialized forums," Radkov said. "I believe the goal to raise the total numbe of visits, 3.3 million in 2012, to 5 million by 2015 will be likely realized in advance."
Speaking of the upcoming Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia, Radkov said preparations were in full swing. "We plan to launch some 160 events throughout the year, including organizing self-driving tours from Moscow to Beijing and exchange programs among students," he said.
The Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia will be inaugurated by President Xi when he visits Moscow later this month.
Radkov encouraged Chinese enterprises to invest in Russia's infrastructure projects in tourism sites, saying "Chinese enterprises are welcomed to participate in the construction of hotels and roads and other facilities."
"Russia, like China, has a long history, with tremendous tourism resources scattering around the country," he said, adding that the government has planned to build more tourism routes, especially to facilitate access to some remote sites.
Highlighting the revolutionary commemoration sites, or the "red tourism" sites that were getting increasingly popular in China, Radkov said, "In Russia, we also have such sites and intend to recommend them to our Chinese friends."
"China is experienced in developing tourism resources, and I think we have much to share," the official noted.
Rosturizm would hold a special meeting in April to discuss how to boost the Russian "red tourism," Radkov said.
Meanwhile, the official acknowledged it is an uphill task for Russia to improve services to Chinese tourists as qualified tour guides are in desperate shortage.
But the good news is the two sides have signed some 40 language training agreements, Radkov said.
"The Year of Russian Tourism in China was very successful, and we are confident that the Chinese Tourism Year in Russia will also see a complete success," the official added.
"The Year of Russian Tourism" began on March 23, 2012, in China and ended on Nov. 16.
The two countries also held other reciprocal events like the "National Years" in 2006 and 2007, and the "Years of Language" in 2009 and 2010.
Review: 12th CPPCC National Committee opens
Review: News conference on new CPPCC session
CPPCC members arrive for opening session
A beautiful China also world's common desire
China's reform roadmap gets clearer
Japan warned not to cause friction with China