Greece leads industry demands to relax visa regime

Greece leads industry demands to relax visa regime

The Greek tourism minister called for European authorities to relax the Schengen rules on visa access for non-EU tourists at German trade show ITB.

Greek minister of culture and tourism Pavlos Yeronlanos said: “We need to open our borders.

“We grew our tourism in Greece by 10% last year by going to new markets and stretching the limit of what Schengen allows. But we reached the limit. Illegal immigration is rampant in Europe, but not because of [a failure of] the visa [regime].”

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) president David Scowsill agreed, saying: “There has to be more freedom to travel. The WTTC and UNWTO [UN World Tourism Council] are want G20 leaders to take this seriously.”

The G20 group of 20 leading economies includes the UK, whose visa regime is seen as a particular problem. Schengen visas allow tourists from outside the EU to visit all member countries signed up to the agreement on a single visa.

The UK sits outside the Schengen deal on open borders within the EU, meaning visitors require an additional UK visa to add Britain to a European itinerary and cannot travel to Continental Europe without one.

Scowsill said: “There is plenty of research to demonstrate the UK is losing out be having a separate visa regime to Schengen. Anyone from the emerging countries visiting Europe won't go to the UK.”

The WTTC will host tourism ministers of the G20 countries at a special summit on visas in Mexico in May, at which it hopes to draft a resolution to take into the following G20 summit.


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