Influx of millions of Chinese tourists wreaks havoc for Russian museums
Chinese tourists to Russia are having a major impact on the country’s museums as their numbers grow by 20% annually. St Petersburg is expected to see an even bigger rise after the city introduced electronic visas for visitors from a number of countries, including China.
At the St Petersburg Cultural Forum in November, where China was the main guest, culture minister Vladimir Medinsky told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that complaints about too many Chinese tourists in the city’s museums are solvable “growing pains” and a positive consequence of Russia’s “museum boom”.
China’s consul general expected that number to rise to 1.3 million by the year’s end, he told a local newspaper.
The influx has had a dramatic effect on logistics.
The Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo near St Petersburg, home to the recreation of the legendary Amber Room, which disappeared during the Second World War, was put on “red alert” due to Chinese tourists, according to deputy culture minister Alla Manilova.
Interfax also reported that Olga Taratynova, the director of the Tsarskoe Selo State Museum, said the average waiting time for tickets was four hours, and that the museum plans to introduce personal timed tickets that would require passport identification for purchase.
The ministry denied media reports that restrictions would be placed on Chinese tourists, and 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”.
Russian business news publication RBC reported that amber items were the most popular purchases among Chinese tourists to Russia, accounting for 30% of all their transactions at Russian stores via Chinese payment systems WeChat Pay and Alipay.
Vladislav Kononov, a ministry of culture official in charge of museums, said in November that it is necessary to explain to Chinese tourists that there are things to see at Tsarskoe Selo other than the Amber Room.
The State Hermitage Museum has also faced logistical issues resulting from increased attendance, although not as extreme as those at Tsarskoe Selo. It is now also considering timed tickets, Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky said in October.
At the same time, the Hermitage Museum reported that it has met with the Chinese internet search giant Baidu to discuss “possibilities for [digital] representation of the Hermitage’s museum collections in China”.