Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, addressing a press conference in Moscow on Friday, said that the number of Russian tourists visiting Greece last year amounted to half a million and the government is looking forward to their increase as a result of the widening of facilities in the issuing of visas and the further systematic promotion of the country in the Russian market.

"As it is known, we had an increase in 2010 of 55 percent in the issuing of visas from Russia, while the number of arrivals at airports increased from about 250,000 in 2009 to half a million in 2010," Geroulanos said.

The minister added that "as regards Russian claims in the European Union concerning the visa, Russia has Greece as its ally" and that "the facilitating of the visits of Russian citizens to the EU must be a focal political direction."

Moreover, he announced that in the coming months three more visa centres will operate in the Russian cities of Kazan, Samara and Krasnajarsk, while the possibility is also being examined for overcoming relevant bureaucracy so that some big Russian tour operators working systematically with Greece can function as visa centres.

Replying to relevant questions by Russian and foreign reporters, Geroulanos said that Greek tourist enterprises have reduced their prices last year by 5 percent and their cost decreased by a further 4.5 percent this year following the decision by the Greek government to reduce VAT while the cost at Greek airports dropped further, a fact of interest for countries neighbouring the EU in particular, such as Russia and Israel.