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Visa-free tourists generate over $10m in Belarus' Grodno over past year

Society 26.10.2017 | 15:55
Grodno. An archive photo
Grodno. An archive photo

GRODNO, 26 October (BelTA) – Visa-free tourists have spent over $10 million in Grodno over the last 12 months, head of the Sports and Tourism Department of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee Oleg Andreichik noted at the session of the committee on 26 October, BelTA has learned.

This day a year ago, a visa-free travel program was launched in Grodno and the Augustow Canal Park. Since then, over 43,000 tourists from 65 countries have visited the oblast center and surroundings. Tourist groups accounted for more than 63% of the visitors.

“On the average, foreign tourists stayed for two and more days in the city of Grodno and Grodno District, spending from €100 to €120 a day. Therefore, all in all visa-free tourists have spent more than $10 million,” Oleg Andreichik remarked. He emphasized that the launch of the visa-free entry program has had a positive effect on the region's economy.

The number of Grodno-based inbound travel agencies went up from 9 to 73 over the last 12 months. More than 20 new facilities were commissioned in 2016-2017, including four hotels, nine food facilities, and several museums. The number of souvenir shops and summer cafes in the city's central and tourist streets has grown, too. The export of tourism services in the region has surged by almost 40%, making up about $2 million in Grodno alone.

“A new impetus was given to educational tourism and also to medical, nostalgic, and historical tourism. We welcome visitors of different ages and preferences. The important thing is that many of them come back to Grodno with their families and friends,” Oleg Andreichik said. Many foreigners want to learn more about Belarus after they visit the Augustow Canal Park. For instance, the number of travel visas issued to Polish citizens rose by 30% in 2017.

Decree No.318 on the introduction of visa-free entry for foreign tourists in the special tourism and recreation park Augustow Canal came into force on 26 October 2016. The document envisages a five-day visa-free entry to the park and adjacent population centers of Grodno District and Grodno. Proposals have been brought forward on extending the decree. Grodno Oblast has come up with an initiative to extend the period of visa-free stay to ten days. This will primarily promote the development of recreational and medical tourism. Moreover, there are plans to expand the visa-free area onto the entire Grodno District. Apart from vehicle checkpoints, visa-free tourists will be able to use the railway station and Grodno Airport.

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