Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos recently highlighted the importance of free movement of tourists around the world and underlined the need to change the Schengen visa procedure in order for it “to stop being a burden on tourism.
“We want to highlight that the Schengen visa not only accomplishes nothing essential in the fight against illegal immigration, but it deeply hurts our tourism,” Mr. Yeroulanos said while speaking at an event held by the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies in late January.
“Of the 16 million visitors who visited Greece only 700 were those who did not return to their country while in the possession of a visa,” the minister said.
Mr. Yeroulanos announced that free access travel would be the key theme for the conference organized for the celebration of the GNTO’s 60th anniversary, at which international tourism personalities are expected to attend.
The minister has argued, for some time now, that the “visa problem” is one of the main factors that prevent tourism growth to Greece from the Chinese, Turkish, Indian and Russian markets.
The issue was also discussed in late January between Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chrisochoidis and China’s vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, Zhang Xiaoqiang.
After the meeting, the minister told the press that planned efforts would simplify visa issuance procedures to increase arrivals of Chinese tourists to Greece.
Greece has “had its eye” on the Chinese tourism market for the last decade and has signed bilateral tourism agreements, promoted its destinations to the Chinese market and participated in exhibitions hosted annually in various Chinese cities.
However, out of the 16.5 million visitors Greece welcomed last year, only 55,000 were from China. Reports said the low figure of Chinese tourists was due to the “visa problem.”