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Statements of Foreign Minister Droutsas and Culture & Tourism Minister Geroulanos following their meeting (14 February 2011)
Mr. Droutsas: First of all, I want to say that tourism is without a doubt one of the most important sectors for the growth of the Greek economy, and the Foreign Ministry is assisting in the efforts to strengthen tourism in Greece. Our cooperation with the Tourism Ministry is self-evident and very close. We began this very close cooperation last year, and I think that the first results justify these efforts. Today we decided to set up a joint working group between our two ministries so that we can deal effectively even with smaller issues, smaller problems; find solutions for everything so that we can strengthen the tourism sector even further.
Mr. Geroulanos: At a difficult time for tourism, like last year, we managed through the close cooperation of the two ministries to keep arrivals at the same levels as previous years. Our goal for this year is to increase arrivals to Greece, and access to Greece is of pivotal importance in this effort. So, this access can be made easier through visas, as well as through direct air links, and we have launched a major effort at the Culture & Tourism Ministry to achieve these two goals. On the issue of visas in particular, the cooperation of the Foreign Ministry is very important, and wherever we have succeeded in promoting visa issues, we have seen spectacular changes in arrivals to Greece. Last year, for example, we had an increase in arrivals from Russia that topped 50%, and, as you can see, this is very important for the Greek economy. And we want to continue down this path now.
Journalist: Are there any countries where it has been decided to ease the visa regime, and did you discuss the issue of one-day visas for Turkey?
Mr. Droutsas: We talked about all these issues. I think the new markets are the ones we know: Russia, China, India – all these regions. And Turkey, of course. And I think that last year we had a significant increase in visits from Turkish citizens. We are trying to find solutions on the issue of the “one-day visit”, as we call it, and we will be as flexible as we can be on this.
Mr. Geroulanos: It is very important that we diversify the markets from which Greece receives visitors. There was an overdependence on specific markets, and right now the emerging markets are very different. As the Minister said, Russia, China, India, Ukraine are markets that we need to monitor, because that is where the big increase in tourism is coming from, and Greece wants a share of that market.