When international political spats get in the way of beach vacations, there’s only one recourse: find another beach in different country. Russia’s strained relations with both Turkey and Egypt have sent tourists to Greece for their getaways.
The Russian Tour Operators Association said Friday despite economic problems and the ongoing refugee crisis on its shores, Greece has seen a more than 500 percent increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting, the Moscow Times reported. The association said 10,000 Russians traveled to Greece in March, an increase of 523.6 percent from a year earlier. They spent nearly $9 million during the month of March alone.
Russian tourists used to flock to both Egypt and Turkey with cheap airfare and package tour deals. Three million Russian tourists visited Egypt in 2014 making a significant contribution to the country’s economy. But after the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt that killed all 224 people aboard in October, travel restrictions have kept Russian tourists away. Turkey’s downing of a Russian military plane in November prompted a deterioration in relations between the two countries and a travel ban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Greece Friday marking his first visit to a European Union country in several months as relations remain at a low over the conflict in Ukraine. In an opinion piece penned by the Russian president in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Putin stressed the close historic and economic ties between Athens and Moscow aiming for future economic investments.
“Hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists visit your country every year. They relax on the beautiful beaches, get acquainted with the rich heritage of ancient Hellas and its legendary architectural monuments,” Putin wrote. “Tourism makes a significant contribution to the economic development of Greece, as well as to broader direct people-to-people contacts and greater trust and friendship between our citizens.”