13 April 2021
Russia, as it turns out, is capable of offering the world yet another - and very important - tourist service. Already, foreign travel agencies are accepting applications from those wishing to come to our country for the vaccination against coronavirus. “The potential demand is very high,” experts say. And the very possibility of such a trip can play a very important role in terms of the image of our country abroad.
Modern society knows many types of different tourism. Beach, sports, sex tourism, alcohol tourism. Finally, there is medical tourism, when residents of countries with expensive (or poor-quality) health services travel to places where medicine is better or cheaper. Thus, Russians go to Turkey for hair transplant operations, and to Armenia for dental services.
And recently, against the backdrop of the raging coronavirus epidemic, medical tourism received its new type - vaccine. When residents of regions, for one reason or another, deprived of the vaccine, go to get vaccinated where there is a vaccine. Not for the sake of rest, but simply because they want to live - both figuratively (without any restrictions and quarantines) and in the literal sense.
Vaccine tourism is already common in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people in some states, where they have to stand in long queues for vaccines, travel or even fly to where they can get vaccinated much faster. From California, for example, to Florida.
A number of journalists and experts accuse these tourists of only spreading the epidemic and causing chaos in the vaccination process - however, local authorities are only glad to see "vaccine" guests, especially when it comes to poor rural towns. After all, the guests bring money, invest it in the local economy - a vaccine tourist is a tourist anyway. Of course, the owners of cafes and hotels are especially pleased.
In other countries, where there is no mass vaccination or it is taking place slowly, enterprising citizens also decided to make money on vaccine tourism to other countries - those in which there is no shortage of vaccines. And first of all to Russia, which produces one of the most famous, safe vaccines in the world "Sputnik V", as well as two less promoted, but also good drugs ("EpiVacCorona" and "KoviVac").
So, one of the Turkish agencies offers a vaccine tour costing 1099 euros (plus 220 dollars for visa costs if the client needs a visa). As part of this tour, the client receives two round-trip tickets on the Istanbul - Moscow route (for the first and second vaccinations in one of the capital's clinics, with a 24-hour stay in the city after each vaccination in case of side effects), as well as a certain “ vaccination certificate ". In addition, there is a tour of the Kremlin, historical metro stations and a visit to the grave of the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, who was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery. Several Turks, as well as a Jordanian and an Italian, have allegedly taken advantage of the company's offer.
Vaccine tours are also offered by German companies - however, not two round trip trips, but with a stay in Moscow during an "intervaccination" period of three weeks. Such a tour costs almost three thousand euros.
However, it is not yet fully understood how clients will arrive in Moscow. Communication with Turkey has already been temporarily suspended, with a number of other countries it is not open. Perhaps we will talk about flights through third countries (for example, Belarus) and vaccinations in the transit hall of the airport. However, will the same Turkish citizens who have experienced a real jump in the number of sick people in their homeland even be allowed there? Not to mention the fact that the domestic Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are unlikely to react positively to the idea of mass vaccination at airports.
There is another problem - with official vaccination, a person in Russia is asked for a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation and a policy of compulsory medical insurance (MHI). Therefore, only citizens of the Russian Federation who are now living abroad will take root in Russia without problems.
One of the Russian companies has already launched such a "vaccine tourism" program for compatriots from foreign countries. The cost is 700 euros (two trips for three days) or 1500 euros (one tour for 21 days). Since you can only have a residence permit in the Russian Federation for vaccination, agencies from neighboring countries, for example, Moldova, have also taken up vaccine tourism. For residents of this country, the trip will cost 1200 euros.
Of course, some foreigners manage to deceive the doctors - but this is still a risk that they would not want to receive on a tour that costs one thousand euros. You can, of course, go to a paid clinic - but this is an even greater risk. Moreover, both for the client (who can be injected with a placebo) and for the tour operators themselves (if the client finds out that the cost of the injection is only a few thousand rubles).
However, the more countries with which Russia will begin to resume air traffic, the more organizers of "vaccine tours" will be. And so the tours themselves will be more accessible.
But the question is - why should any foreigners benefit from this? It may seem strange that the process of vaccination of foreigners is not organized in Russia at the state level in order to make it as much as possible in line with Russian interests. There are many who wish to come. “Every day we receive inquiries from almost all of our partners. The potential demand is very high - from India to European countries, ”Intourist told reporters.
A number of Russian officials and politicians, however, are skeptical about this idea. Initially, the same Ministry of Health stated that all state efforts should be focused primarily on vaccinating Russians. State Duma deputies agree with doctors. "In no case should it happen that we provide a vaccine to foreign citizens for a fee, and the Russians do not have the opportunity to get it," says Nikolai Govorin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Health Protection Committee.
Some representatives of the tourism industry also say that mass vaccine tourism to Russia for foreigners is a matter of the near future, but still. “For tourist groups, such a service is not yet possible, and, probably, after the vaccination of Russia, when it will take place in a larger volume, it will be possible to return to this topic,” explains Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.
However, one does not interfere with the other. Vaccinations of compatriots are going according to plan, there is no rush demand, queues and stampedes a la "the beginning of sales of a new iPhone" anywhere. The number of infected continues to decline, and there is no talk at all about measures to tighten quarantine (which would be an incentive for people to flee to get vaccinated).
On the other hand, vaccine tourism would be a tremendous help for Russia. And it's not just about the money received for the vaccine, air ticket and hotel, but about the country's image.
Yes, the conditional "Turkish version" (arrived, received the first dose of the vaccine, flew away in a day, arrived in three weeks, received the second dose, flew away, forgot about Russia) is not so profitable, but the "German" - with a three-week stay in the country - provides a number of possibilities. Patients will need to do something between injections. Accordingly, a properly organized cultural program can lead to patients leaving Russia not only with the vaccine, but also with a positive impression of the country they visited. An impression that they will not only share with their friends, but also that will protect their brains from Western Russophobic propaganda.
As a result, after weighing all the pros and cons, the Russian authorities, apparently, decided to get involved in the process. According to the official Twitter account of Sputnik V, an official vaccine tourism program will start in July - foreigners will be brought to Russia and vaccinated. And the foreigners are already inspired. “Thank Russia for taking care of us - the poor hostages of the rules of the European Union, which itself is held hostage by Big Pharma,” one of the commentators wrote under the post. Others, without further ado, simply write phrases from the "I want" series.
And it would be very nice if their desires were not beaten off by some sky-high prices for the trip or bureaucratic delays. Here, the main income will not come from the cost of the trip, but from the monetization of its consequences. Russia already has a positive experience in attracting foreign guests (2014 Olympics, 2018 FIFA World Cup), which has destroyed many negative stereotypes of foreigners about Russia. At that time, the guests were not only actually introduced visa-free for the duration of the events, but were also allowed for some time after that to freely visit the country without obtaining a visa. Can we repeat?
Text: Gevorg Mirzayan