From September 1, 2022, all tour operators have to send the information about their sold tours to a single database. They do this voluntarily now and it will be mandatory to submit the information from March 1, 2023.
It is worth noting that the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) communicates with the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism), informing that domestic tour operators are not ready to implement this innovation. More precisely, they are not technically prepared to join the information system.
“Currently, tour operators have no information about the possible joining to this system and working within its framework. On August 15, Rostourism published a draft resolution of the government of the Russian Federation “On approval of the Rules for the Functioning of a Unified Information Database for Electronic Tour Vouchers”, according to which the rules for the system operation will come into force on March 1, 2023. Consequently, from September 1, 2022, a tour operator is obliged to submit the information to the non-existent system with unapproved procedures and regulations,” says the RUTI’s letter that appeared on the websites of news agencies.
Rostourism, in turn, said that the law on electronic tour vouchers does not contain a clause according to which submitting the information about tour vouchers to an electronic database from September 1 becomes the tour operators’ responsibility.
“We understand that any innovations in the industry must be introduced gradually so that the business could have an opportunity to comfortably adapt to new rules. That is why the law on electronic tour vouchers provides for a transitional period, and from September 1, 2022, tour operators will be able to willingly submit their information to the information database. For six months, until March 1, 2023, tour operators in the outbound tourism will not be held liable for not providing data to the system. As for domestic and inbound tour operators, the transition period will last until September 2023,” Rostourism commented to allay fears.
Thus, for tour operators, the obligation to provide information about their sold tours comes only after three months. And then, if any sold tour is not recorded in the system of electronic tour vouchers, the sellers will face sanctions, including fines of up to 1 mn roubles.
It is worth mentioning that the “Electronic Tour Voucher” system is a data collection system in which tour operators will have to make entries of the details of each package tour sold and its cost - it’s mandatory. The information must be submitted at the end of each calendar month no later than the 15th day of the following month. The law that comes into force from the beginning of autumn, also prohibits carrying out activities without submitting the information to the Electronic Tour Voucher system regarding every contract for selling the tourist product. About 200 mn roubles a month will be allocated from the budget for the system’s operation.
The initial purpose of creating this electronic system was to protect travellers from scammers and, of course, to make the tourism market more transparent and keep it under control. At least, these are the goals voiced some time ago by Sangadzhi Tarbayev, Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for Tourism and Tourism Infrastructure. While the system is supposed to cope with transparency and control issues, the protection of travellers remains in question. The fact is that a tourist will be able to access the information only within 5 working days from the date of an individual application. And what should those travellers do who want to receive the information about their tours from the electronic system, in case when, for example, they bought their tour in early August with a departure in the middle of August, but the information about their tours will appear in the system only during the first two weeks of the next month?
Another problem may be the security of personal data. It is assumed that the information about the tour, in addition to information about the tour operator that sold the ticket (legal address, Individual Taxpayer Number, and so on), will include the information about the tourists like their passport data and the information about what tours were bought, their duration, routes, flight numbers, hotel addresses, and costs. Few people want scammers to find out that some person is able to afford a flight to the Maldives for a month and stay at a 5* hotel, and to see the tourist’s data.
However, according to Sangadzhi Tarbayev, no need to worry about personal data. “Earlier, the data were “scattered” almost all over the world. Some data were stored on Booking.com, some were held by airlines, and so on. Accordingly, access to this data could be obtained, in fact, by anyone. Now, they will be stored in Russia, and access to them by third parties will be completely excluded,” the deputy said in his interview given to one of the federal media.
One of the possible negative aspects of the introduction of an electronic tour voucher database may be that tour prices for the Russians, travelling both abroad and in Russia, will rise, according to Sergey Pozdnyakov, an expert in the tourism sector.
“The fact is that the need to maintain an electronic database quite heavily bureaucratizes the mechanism for issuing a tour voucher, and some operators having large client flow will have to hire an additional person to enter the necessary data into the database,” the expert explains.
All these labour costs must somehow be compensated, he continues. However, Sergey Pozdnyakov clarifies, “in an ‘average’ company, tours are sold to about 10-15 persons a day, and no more. Therefore, should there be an increase in price, it will be insignificant.
It is worth noting that at the moment, tour operators really do not seem to have anything to worry about, although the absolute figures for the number of tourists are great. On the one hand, in the first half of 2022, the Russian tourists made 2.3 mn trips abroad. Really, this figure is 64 percent higher than in the same six months of 2021, but it is also 71 percent less than in the same period of 2019. As for domestic tourism, by the end of 2022, the domestic tourist flow may reach 61 mn travellers, and this figure is only slightly lower than in the peak year 2019, when 65 mn people spent their vacations in Russia.