One question is burning on the lips of all merchants and businessmen of Russian tourist places: “When will the Chinese return?” Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Lake Baikal attracted Chinese tourists. Alena Makogon, a Chinese-speaking guide, estimated that about one in two visitors to the area came from China. “All rooms in the hotel were booked six months in advance. The number of tourists from China was huge.” she recalls in the columns of an online newspaper Sixth tone.

But when China finally eased its Covid-0 restrictions last January, a wind of optimism swept over the picturesque Siberian lake. Residents hoped that the return of Chinese tourists would help offset the effects of the war in Ukraine, which