The president of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA), Yiannis Evangelou, estimates that tourist arrivals from Russia could reach some 500,000 in the next two years. He believes that Greece should proceed with carefully studied moves and the cooperation of all tourism bodies in order to expand its share of the Russian market for the entire calendar year.
A mission of Russian travel agents and entrepreneurs headed by Sergey Shpilko, the president of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) recently arrived in Greece. Mr. Shpilko said: “Greece must aim to attract more Russian tourists through the exploitation of all its unique characteristics, its culture and tradition, its important religious and archeological monuments as well as its shopping.”
Mr. Shpilko also stressed on the increase in wealthy Russians who are attracted to Greece by the expectation of traditional Greek culture, food and the Orthodox religious tradition. He specified that Greece must aim to attract these travelers by highlighting the specific bond between he two nations and Greece must therefore target to promote a quality tourism product.
There has been major growth recently in visitors to Greece from Russia. Recent research estimates that there was a 36 percent increase year-on-year in Russian arrivals, which reached 200,000. In the first five months of 2007 there was a new rise of 28 percent and the total increase is expected to exceed 35 percent.
The tourism development ministry is largely responsible for this due to its major campaign as well as improvements in the procedures for issuing Schengen visas by Greek consular authorities.
Greece’s main competitors, according to recent surveys, are Turkey and Egypt with 1.5 million and one million respectively. The Russian visit marks the first significant step made after the memorandum of Greek-Russian cooperation on tourism was signed between HATTA and RUTI earlier this year.