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11,500 Russians a day obtain visas to visit Greece

10 August 2013 / 08:08:10  GRReporter
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     "We are seeing the old Greece here, the people with clear eyes," Ukrainians share their impressions at the end of their six-day stay in Western Macedonia. They are a group of 20 people, representatives of local authorities and tourist operators from three major cities. The local tourism organization in Western Macedonia has invited them to Greece in an attempt to promote visits to the region. It may not meet the standards for "sun and sea" but it has many other sights instead. The guests walked around Valia Kalda, visited the Byzantine monasteries and saw the estates in Siatista and Kastoria. They visited the winery in Alpha in Amideo where they tasted wine and tried peppers from Florina, beans from Prespa and wild mushrooms from Grevena. There is no doubt that the most impressive experience was the journey by boat across the Prespa Lake to the Island of St. Achilles and its famous basilica. "We are very interested in thematic tourism which places emphasis on history, culture, religion but also on the activities connected with environmental protection," says Odessa’s Mayor Elena Pavlova. "So far my countrymen have known Greece only as a summer tourist destination. However, we now realize that there are places in this country which welcome us in both summer and winter," states the Mayor. Greece enjoys great respect in the Ukraine, as there is still an active Greek community there. "The fact that there are 29 villages in the largest area of ​​Marioupouli in which Greek is spoken speaks for itself," says Alexandra Liapoupoulou, deputy director of the Greek tourism organization in Western Macedonia. It seems that the "opening" of the Greek tourist operator to the Ukraine is starting to bear fruit.
     "We had planned similar activities with employees from other parts of Greece and with Bulgarian businessmen last year too," says Liapoupoulou. "Now we are seeing the results." The efforts that the Greek tourism organization has made on a voluntary basis and beyond its responsibilities are truly mutual. Since there are no available funds for such campaigns, the six-day stay of the Ukrainian guests was sponsored by 53 businessmen from the area. Each of them offered for free their services such as rooms, food, transport and excursions and the Ukrainian guests paid only for their flight tickets.
     "The situation in Western Macedonia is not very good because unemployment is rising and many tourist offices are to be closed," Liapoupoulou explains the reasons for their actions. "We want to attract tourists from the Balkans who can easily reach these places as well as to encourage them to visit us all year round," she adds. The action group of the Greek tourism organization is planning to organize similar visits again, for example from Russia.
    However, Russian tourists are not waiting for a special invitation. The chief consul in Russia has recently announced that the wave of applications of Russians for visas to visit Greece has surpassed all previous records. A total of 600,172 visas were issued in the period from January to July (which is an increase of up to 62.3% compared to the same period last year) whereas the increase in the number of visas allowing multiple entry in Greece and long stays from six months to 5 years is 123%. On average, 7,500 visas to Greece are being issued per day in Moscow during the tourist season. In July, however, there was a day when the record number of 11,500 visas was issued. According to estimates, the number of visas issued may exceed one million by the end of the tourist season. The lion's share of Russian tourism naturally goes to northern Greece. According to the data of the Association of Hoteliers in Thessaloniki, overnight stays of Russian tourists increased by 62.21% during the first half of the year, thus reaching 35,698 per night. This year for the first time Russian tourists have displaced Cypriots from the first place in the group of Thessaloniki’s "fans".  
    However, during this summer, there is a "strong" presence of Russian tourists in many other areas of Greece. Particular preference is given to the island of Crete where all the resorts are full. It is not a coincidence that due to the increased number of Russian tourists many shops for fur coats have been opened even in Chania. "The Russians have been visiting this area for years but all expectations have been exceeded this year," says an owner of a shop for fur coats in Chania. "This does not mean that sales are increasing. Their number may be higher but, of course, they are .. poorer," he states.
Translated by Simona Peneva

Tags: RussiaUkrainеTourismWestern MacedoniaNtorthern GreeceThessalonikiVisasGreek tourism organization
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