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Russian Tourists Set Sights on Greece, Bulgaria this Summer

Russian_passportsThe recent barrage of terror strikes and the ongoing animosity between Russia and Turkey have diverted travelers to Greece and Bulgaria, with both countries stepping up their campaigns to attract more Russian tourists.

In the meantime, Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura cites Russian news agency Interfax figures that bookings by Russian holidaymakers have increased by 30 percent in the first two months of 2016, with agents there directing vacationers to Greek destinations. Interfax predicts a rise of Russian tourist bookings by up to 80 percent this year.

At the same time, Wall Street Journal reports that reservations to Turkey have  dwindled by 40 percent compared to last year, with hotel occupancy rates down by half and many hotel businesses up for sale. Russia-Turkey flights have also dropped by almost 50 percent.

In efforts to bring in Russian tourists, Greece has boosted its visa offices in Russia, employed more staff and simplified the procedure for three-year visas, while Bulgaria has lowered its visa fees.

According to Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Russian Association of Tour Operators (ATOR), Russian tourists are instead choosing Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria this year, and have also expressed interest in southeastern Asia.

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