MINSK, 20 December (BelTA) – A ceremony took place in Grodno to honor the 50,000th tourist, who entered the city without visas. Symbolic gifts were presented to the Chmielewski family from the Polish city of Augustow, BelTA has learned.
The head of the family Przemyslaw Chmielewski said: “I've come to Grodno for business. Since we don't need visas, I've brought my wife Patrycja and my daughters Paulinka and Wiktoria with me. Grodno is an interesting city. It is the second time we've come here as a family. I am glad we can come here and meet the neighbors in such a simple way, without visas.” His daughter was the 50,000th tourist, who came to Grodno without needing a visa.
Grodno Oblast Vice Governor Viktor Liskovich congratulated the family. In his words, the visa-free travel program encourages the development of services sphere in Grodno. “Over 400 new jobs in retail, public catering, entertainment, and culture have been created. Nine stationary public catering outlets have been opened. Hotels and hostels are under construction. It is important that small and medium private companies are involved in this work. We see interest on the part of travel agencies in welcoming foreign tourists and promoting Belarusian tourism products,” said the official. Viktor Liskovich underlined that the region's export of tourism services had increased. In particular, the growth rate of tourism services in Grodno exceeded 144% year-on-year. More tourists come from Poland (177.1%), Lithuania (247.5%), and Latvia (186.7%). All in all, the region has welcomed citizens from 66 countries.
The local travel agencies say that a foreign tourist spends €100-120 per day on the average. Foreign tourists have spent about $12 million in the region so far.
“Event tourism and healthcare tourism are now popular. Weekend tours are now more attractive. More than 70% of the tourists spend two and more days in Grodno and the nearby areas. The region has something to offer and show to the foreigners, however, more efforts are needed. It is necessary to fill the calendar with interesting cultural events, sport and entertainment events,” noted Viktor Liskovich.
A Belarus president decree went into force on 26 October 2016 to allow foreigners to visit Grodno, Augustow Canal, and some areas in Grodno District without visas for five days. Grodno Oblast has spoken in favor of extending the decree's duration. Apart from that, there are plans to expand the visa-free zone onto entire Grodno District. It will allow including the Porechye resort, the landscape reserve Ozery, and the sanatoriums Porechye and Ozerny.
At present foreign tourists cross the border by car. In the future they will be able to travel by rail and arrive at the Grodno airport. Work is in progress to enable new options for travelling by air and by rail.More about Society