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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