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G20 Commits To Visa Issue, Greece Makes Proposals

“While recognizing the sovereign right of States to control the entry of foreign nationals, we will work towards developing travel facilitation initiatives in support of job creation, quality work, poverty reduction and global growth,” according to the Leaders’ Declaration from the annual meeting of the G20 held 18-19 June in Los Cabos, Mexico.

According to research by UNWTO and WTTC, if visa processes and entry formalities improve, the G20 could boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122 million.

An extra $206 billion in tourism exports could be generated and over five million additional jobs could be created by 2015.

Findings have showed that of the 656 million international tourists that visited G20 countries in 2011, an estimated 110 million needed a visa, many of whom were deterred from traveling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining one.

The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) was on the same wavelength when it expressed its positions and made proposals for the tourism development of Greece and Europe in a recent meeting with the European Parliament’s Transport Committee.

On the issue of simplified procedures for issuing Schengen visas, HATTA suggested the creation of a European electronic database for e-visas through which travel agencies and tour operators would undertake the responsibility for the movement of tourists.

Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos also recently spoke on the subject in a meeting with Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni.

According to Mr. Avramopoulos, visa offices abroad have been instructed to take advantage of all possibilities to accelerate the visa process to potential visitors to Greece. Consular authorities have been informed that visas may be cleared in only 48 hours provided the terms of the Schengen Treaty were not disturbed.

Furthermore, reports said the foreign ministry aimed to increase the amount of locations where prospective visitors may apply for a visa so they are available even in cities that lack a Greek consulate.

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