Tourist arrivals from Russia could reach the 500,000 figure in the next two years, estimated the president of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA), Yiannis Evangelou. He added that Russia is a mature market and if Greece proceeds with carefully studied moves and the cooperation of all tourism bodies, it can expand its share of the Russian market to the entire calendar year. Evangelou yesterday received a mission of Russian travel agents and entrepreneurs, headed by Sergey Shpilko, his Russian counterpart. Shpilko stated that Greece must intensify its efforts to highlight its unique characteristics, its culture and tradition, its important religious and archaeological monuments as well as its shopping, which attract Russian tourists. The president of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI) also suggested that there is a growing trend among wealthy Russians with high expectations of quality and multiple travel experiences toward vacations that combine culture, traditional Greek food and drink and the Orthodox religious tradition. These elements and the highlighting of the special historic bond between the two nations should be Greece’s target in order to promote a quality tourism product. In the last few years, there has been major growth in visitors to Greece from Russia. Last year there was a 36 percent increase year-on-year in Russian tourists, who reached 200,000 arrivals, while preliminary data for this year are very positive, as well, as in the first five months there was a new rise of 28 percent, and the total increase is expected to exceed 35 percent. That rise is partly thanks to the major campaign by the Tourism Development Ministry, the biggest ever, as well as improvements in the procedures for issuing Schengen visas by Greek consular authorities. Greece’s main competitors for this market are Turkey and Egypt, with 1.5 million and 1 million Russian tourists, respectively. The visit by Russian tourism entrepreneurs was the first step in implementing a memorandum of Greek-Russian cooperation on tourism, signed in March between HATTA and RUTI.