26 October, 2006
Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia has launched a Greek Week in St Petersburg as part of a tourism publicity drive in Russia for Greek products.
Formally opened by Petralia on Tuesday, "Days of Greece" began on October 21 and ends on December 15.
The minister outlined the opportunity for boosting investments between the two countries, saying that existing close cooperation still had great leeway for growth.
"Greek tourism is rising and has forged a dynamic path that will lead the country into the constellation of advanced countries," she forecast.
"Our tourism policy, which is a long-term one, has brought statutory reform that is key to the advancement of new forms of tourism - city, conference, agro tourism, cultural, marine, skiing, spa, sports and coaching, educational, religious and pilgrimage," Petralia said.
The minister laid special emphasis on religious tourism, the fastest growing alternative form around the world.
"Greece has tens of thousands of Orthodox monasteries, churches and chapels that can offer tourists an integrated experience of contact with our religious tradition. We aim to make the tourist season all-year-round, which will make a decisive contribution to the country's tourism and economic development," she noted.
Earlier in the day, the minister met a leader of Russia's tourism enterprise federation for talks on boosting tourism to Greece and opportunities for cooperation.
She invited travel agents to visit Greece, also announcing that a publicity campaign will be launched in Russia. The minister heard that Russians were interested in city breaks and skiing holidays in Greece, especially during a long holiday each January.
According to Petralia, Russia this year is the source country for tourists to Greece that has shown the greatest percentage increase at about 50 percent.
Traditionally, Russian tourists opted for Halkidiki and Crete, but interest was now
being shown in other Greek islands.
In 2005, around 183,000 Russian tourists visited Greece, rising by more than 28 percent against 2004.
Accompanying Petralia on her trip are a deputy of the ruling New Democracy party, Ioannis Plakiotakis; and, for the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Theodoros Pangalos. Both officials work on tourism policy for their parties.
In St Petersburg, the minister also met the city's governor, Valentina Matvievko, who said that visa problems for Russians were being resolved.
Petralia will also visit Moscow to open a new bureau of the Greek National Tourism Organization.
Source: Athens News Agency