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Greece opens new tourism bureau in Moscow

27/10/2006 13:39
The number of Russian tourists to Greece increased by 50 percent in 2006, nearing the 200,000 mark, Greek officials said here on Thursday during the inauguration of a new National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) bureau in the Russian capital.

In a brief address at the ceremony, visiting Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia referred to stepped up efforts to slash red tape and the waiting period needed to issue tourist visas for Russian nationals. Other Greek officials noted that the minimum waiting period, according to Schengen Pact procedures, is now applied for tourist visas to Russian citizens.

On her part, Petralia said the wait period for tourist visas issued by the Greek embassy in Moscow has been reduced to 48 hours, whereas an average of 1,800 visas are issued on a daily basis.

The issue of the visa is particularly sensitive for Moscow, with the city's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, also calling for a simplification of procedures.

"Russians visiting Greece for tourism are prosperous middle-class citizens, and a simplification of visa procedures would mean a measurable increase in their number," he said following talks with the Greek minister.

Finally, Petralia said a promotional campaign to showcase Greece begins in the Russian market next month, whereas the Greek side is also aiming to strengthen its presence in various exhibitions and events in the country.

She also invited Luzhkov to Greece to attend a tourism-related trade show in Thessaloniki.