GRODNO, 18 October (BelTA) – Grodno has welcomed the 70,000th visa-free tourist since the start of the year, BelTA has learned.
The anniversary tourist who took advantage of the visa waiver program was a 74-year old Jutta Christensen from Denmark. She came to Grodno with a group of pensioners with whom she studies the Russian language at a hobby club. Their teacher is a native of Grodno. “She told us a lot about beautiful places of her motherland. So we made up our mind to go and see it. You know, our first days here prove that she was right. Grodno is a beautiful and clean city, with open and very friendly people, interesting architecture, and unusual places. We like everything,” Jutta Christensen said. A long time ago, in Denmark, she and other amateur musicians got to know accordionists from Russia. That was the beginning of a friendship that sparkled interest in studying the Russian language and travelling to Russian-language countries. She had never been to Grodno before.
She was happy to become the anniversary visa-free tourist. She received gifts and souvenirs from Grodno Oblast Deputy Governor Viktor Liskovich at the walls of the ancient Kolozha Church.
“It is encouraging that tourists from more countries visit Grodno and the district visa-free. This year alone, we welcomed nationals of 63 states. The bulk of them are our neighbors from Lithuania, Poland and Latvia. Germany is also among the leaders in terms of visa-free tourists,” Viktor Liskovich said.
The tourist surge greatly benefits the regional development. For example, the visa-free zone that includes Grodno and the district posted a trade increase of 20% since the start of the year. Over the past two years, Grodno opened six hotels and hostels, over 20 cafes and restaurants and created more than 500 jobs. In 2019 three new museums are slated for opening – museums of vintage cars, water and forest. Restoration works are in progress in the Old Castle; the renovation of the Kolozha Church is nearing completion. Other architectural gems are also refurbished. “We are refurbishing not only the oblast capital. A lot has been done on the Augustow Canal. By the way, together with Poland we are promoting this unique water landmark as a single tourist product,” Viktor Liskovich said. Foreigners are interested in various types of leisure, including educational and sports activities; medical tourism is getting more popular, too. Over 1,000 foreigners took advantage of the visa-free entry to spend time at health resorts of Grodno and the district.
As it was reported, Decree No. 462 on the visa-free entry and departure of foreign nationals came into force on 1 January 2018. The visa-free zone near Grodno was expanded to cover entire Grodno District. Visa-free entry is available via road checkpoints and also checkpoints located at railway terminals and airports.More about Society