A group of Russian tourists embarked on a historic journey to North Korea on Friday, marking the first organized tour to the country since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The departure, organized by the Vostok Intur tour agency, saw 97 Russian nationals boarding Air Koryo’s Tu-154 flight from Vladivostok to Pyongyang, with plans to visit the capital city and the Masikryong Ski Resort.
Natalia Zinina, a manager at Vostok Intur, confirmed the departure and highlighted the significance of the trip amidst ongoing global travel restrictions. The tour, scheduled from February 9 to 12, signals a potential revival of tourism in North Korea after a prolonged hiatus due to the pandemic.
The tour group’s journey commenced with the Air Koryo flight JS-272 departing from Vladivostok International Airport, bound for Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport. While flight details were not publicly available on tracking services, Zinina revealed that the North Korean side opted for a larger aircraft than initially planned, possibly indicating the involvement of Korean partners.
The tour, organized in collaboration with the government of Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East, attracted significant interest, with over 100 individuals, including journalists and children, initially signing up. The package, priced at $750, covers international and domestic flights, accommodations, and sightseeing activities.
However, Zinina cautioned that despite the enthusiasm for future tours, uncertainties surrounding border restrictions due to the pandemic remain a significant hurdle. She emphasized that this tour serves as a pilot initiative, and the resumption of full-fledged tour packages to North Korea is contingent upon further developments.
The departure of the Russian tour group underscores warming ties between Moscow and Pyongyang, with both sides exploring avenues for enhanced cooperation, including military exchanges and potential agreements to facilitate tourist exchanges between the two countries.
Simon Cockerell, the general manager of Koryo Tours, offered insights into the significance of the tour, noting that while it marks a milestone, it may not necessarily signal a broader reopening of North Korea to foreign tourists from other nations.
As the tour group embarks on its journey, it symbolizes a tentative step towards resuming tourism in North Korea, offering a glimmer of hope for the revival of the country’s tourism industry amidst the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic and geopolitical dynamics in the region.