Thomas Cook.
Thomas Cook. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

While the process of relaxation of visa rules between Russia and European Union appears to be stuck in a limbo, one of Europe’s leading tour operator, Thomas Cook, has joined hands with Russia’s Intourist to get a foothold in the Russian tourism market.

Thomas Cook has signed a $45 million joint agreement with Intourist as part of its expansion plan in emerging markets of the world.

“We think that Russia is a very attractive market. Within the next five to 10 years Russia will become Europe's biggest market,” Manny Fontela-Nova, CEO of Thomas Cook told media.

Though Thomas Cook will have a 50.1 percent stake in the new venture, Intourist’s hotels division is not included in the joint venture.

Intourist, which is one of the top five travel service providers for outbound tourism, looks forward to this venture to tap into Thomas Cook's European travelers.

Russia has seen unprecedented growth in outbound tourism in the last few years. The country, which abounds in heritage sites, enjoys the status of being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

However, the country has been pursuing to end visa restrictions between Russia and EU nations for quite some time. Recently, Russia tightened visa rules for EU citizens reciprocating the strict visa norms issued for Russians traveling to the European Union countries. Amid such political turmoil, the joint venture of Thomas Cook and Intourist is expected to show the desired results in a slow manner.