Russian museums overcrowded due to Chinese tourist influx

Tsarskoye Selo and Hermitage are considering timed tickets

Russian museums overcrowded due to Chinese tourist influx
Photo: Florstein

The number of Chinese tourists to Russia grows by 20% annually with an even bigger rise in St Petersburg, as the city has recently introduced electronic visas. A record number of visitors is causing logistical problems in museums, but Russia’s Ministry of Culture says these are solvable “growing pains”.

Chinese tourists to Russia are having a major impact on the country’s museums, says The Art Newspaper. Over 800,000 tourists from China visited Moscow in 2018. For comparison, according to the Paris Region Tourist Board, the capital of France saw 1,1 million Chinese visitors in 2017. St Petersburg welcomed 400,000 Chinese tourists by September 2019, with China’s consul general expecting the figure to reach 1,3 million by the end of the year.

The number of foreign tourists in St Petersburg is expected to surge, as the city has recently introduced electronic visas for visitors from a number of countries including China. However, the increased number of tourists has a dramatic effect on logistics. For example, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo was put on “red alert” due to Chinese tourists, reported Russia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Alla Manilova at the end of September. “The ministry is receiving mass complaints against Tsarskoye Selo,” she said. “Our tourists aren’t able to get in because Chinese groups are getting through.”

According to Olga Taratynova, the director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, the average waiting time for tickets amounted to four hours. She said that the museum planned to introduce personal timed tickets that would require passport identification for purchase. However, two days later Manilova told journalists that “tourists from a wide range of countries are welcome by Russian museums, and no restrictive measures are foreseen for them”. In November, Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky stated that complaints about too many Chinese tourists in St Petersburg’s museums are solvable “growing pains” and a positive consequence of Russia’s “museum boom”.

Amber items are especially popular among Chinese tourists to Russia. Photo: Viktor Guseinov

According to Vladislav Kononov, the director of the Ministry of Culture’s Museum Department, it is necessary to explain to Chinese tourists that the Amber Room is not the only thing to see at Tsarskoye Selo. Meanwhile, Russian RBC news outlet reported that amber items were especially popular among Chinese tourists to Russia, accounting for 30% of all their purchases at Russian stores via Chinese payment systems WeChat Pay and Alipay.

St Peterburg’s State Hermitage Museum also faced logistical issues due to increased attendance. In October, Director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky said that they were also considering timed tickets. Besides, the museum’s representatives have met with the Chinese tech giant Baidu to discuss “possibilities for [digital] representation of the Hermitage’s museum collections in China”.

By Anna Litvina