Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Greece could welcome three million Russian tourists this year if the problem of delays in visa issuance is solved.
“Many Russians are bound for Greece and the country comes in first place in tourist bookings”, the Russian president said to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday, the first day of a two-day official visit to Greece aimed at securing bilateral agreements in trade, investment and joint energy and transport projects.
“One million Russian tourists are expected to come to your country (this year) and this number will triple if the problem with the visas is solved”, he said.
PM Tsipras said he hoped that the number does multiply and stressed that efforts would be made to improve the speed and efficiency of the visa process.
“We are doing everything in our power to overcome obstacles that have been created due to the fact that the visa issuance system has changed and I personally have dealt with the matter”, the Greek PM said.
According to reports, the Russian leader and the Greek PM discussed ways to accelerate the visa issuance process.
Last month, the Russian Tourism Industry Union said that the Greek Consulate in Moscow was overwhelmed with visa applications submitted by Russians wanting to travel to Greece.
The Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis, is scheduled to travel to Moscow on Sunday, May 29, for a series of meetings on the matter.
In a recent statement, the Greek Foreign Ministry said that following actions aimed towards the full and speedy servicing of applicants for visas in Moscow for travel to Greece, the time required for issuing has been reduced to under ten days from the day the application is submitted to the Greek Consulate. “The objective is for visa application processing time to be even further reduced throughout the peak season”, the ministry’s statement read.
According to the Russian Tour Operators Association (ATOR), the number of Russian tourists visiting Greece this year has jumped by more than 500 percent.
The association said in a statement on Friday that a total of 10,000 Russian travelers moved to visit Greece in March, up 523.6 percent on the previous year. Meanwhile, between January and April, 20,000 Russians visited Greece, a 135 percent rise on 2015.