Record-High Number of Italian Visas Issued to Russians

Sergey Vladimirov, 21.05.2014 11:52
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Out of all Schengen countries, Italy is the one that has the most goodwill towards Russia. Last year, it issued 770 thousand visas to Russians through consulates-general in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which is a 22% increase compared to 2012. This record-high number also brought good profits to Italians: 26 million euro was added to the state treasury, which is about a quarter of all money collected by Italy from visa fees.

According to a report of the Russian office of the ENIT (Italian Government Tourist Board), all Italian consulates situated abroad issued a total of 2,125,490 visas during 2013, which is a 13.5% growth compared to 2012.

“This is the highest number of visas that Italy has ever issued. It now places second among Schengen Agreement’s member countries in regard to the number of visas issued,” says the letter from the ENIT.

Results for the beginning of 2014 also proved good for Italians: during the first four months, 240 thousand Russians (+14%) got Italian entry visas, with the quantity of one-year and long-term multiple-entry visas growing steadily. It takes 48-72 hours to issue an Italian visa in Russia, and visa applications are accepted in 22 visa centers, 20 of which are situated in Russia’s regions.

As for the Italian business visa, it takes 8 days to be issued.

“This also is the result of innovative document circulation technologies and the recent simplification of visa issuing procedures,” says the ENIT’s letter. Moreover, in order to spur the economic development of the country, Italians have introduced a new type of visa called ‘startup’ – for those looking to start their own business in Italy.

Right now, Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic missions and consulates, with ENIT’s support, are all concentrating their efforts on preparing for the upcoming universal exposition ‘Expo Milano 2015’ in Milan. According to preliminary estimates, the country expects from 6 to 8 million visitors, and a lot of them will be Russians. Due to that, Italian consulates-general in Moscow and St. Petersburg are more ‘generous’ in issuing multiple-entry visas. For instance, in 2013 the number of 1 to 5 year multiple-entry visas issued to Russians grew 150%.

Italy puts great value on Russian tourists. Strained relations between Russia and the EU, coupled with the growth of euro against ruble, makes Italian travel companies uneasy. Various estimates indicate that the possible drop in Russian tourist flow to Italy may be from 15 to 20%. Italian tour operators even write letters with appeals to hold on to the Russian tourist. For instance, the other day Head of Indaco Travel DMC Antonio D'Ettorre has called on the Italian government to restore friendly ties with Russia.

“My appeal was signed by hundreds of companies and citizens, who have been working with Russian tourists for many years,” the general director added in his letter that he addressed to the partner tour operators. The Italian touristic community considers the expected imposition of more severe sanctions on Russia by the EU to be an anachronism.

A number of St. Petersburg’s travel companies that sell tours to Italy have reported to TRN that as of yet there have been no tangible drops in sales. However, it does not change the fact that Italy sustains losses due to the rising euro exchange rate, since tourists are turning to more budget-friendly accommodation options.

“Italy’s tourism is different from that of Turkey, Egypt, Greece and other sea and beach destinations. This is not mass tourism, although Sicily did introduce the ‘Turkish type’ of an all-inclusive holiday,” St. Petersburg’s company ‘Vse Tury’ told TRN.

Travel companies are starting to notice the demand shifting from Turkey and Egypt to countries with more excursion and educational tourism capabilities. Italy is determined to be at the forefront of this process, and the country is prepared to spare no efforts (including visa-related ones) getting there.

Страны, регионы и города: Italy
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