MOSCOW – Greece and the local authority of Moscow will sign a memorandum of cooperation in tourism probably in May, as agreed to yesterday by Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. It follows a proposal by the Greek minister which surprised Luzkov during the meeting held by the two men in the Russian capital, in the context of Spiliotopoulos’s visit to the international tourism exhibition MITT. The minister said tourism is Greece’s heavy industry, generating 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. But sea and the sun alone, he added, are not enough – for attracting visitors requires hard work, great effort, education and a strategy. On the problem arising from the visas that Russians must obtain to visit Greece, Spiliotopoulos said it would be better if they were not required. He did however stress the rapid and efficient processing of applications with the consulate in Moscow, which issues as many as 3,000 daily, delivered within 48 hours, while the consulate in St Petersburg has them delivered the same day. Luzhkov thanked the Greek Embassy and Consulate for making it easier for his compatriots, while promising to do what he can to reduce bureaucracy for Greeks who wish to visit Russia. Last year some 235,000 Russians visited Greece, while their favorite destination remains Turkey, with 2 million Russians visiting Greece’s neighbor last year, according to data from the Russian tourism organization. The Russian official accepted Spiliotopoulos’s proposal for Greek investors with expertise in building hotels and infrastructure to become active in Moscow and around the Black Sea, adding that there are at least 120 suitable plots in his city waiting to be utilized. Spiliotopoulos also announced the tripling of funds for the promotion of Greek tourism in the Russian market this year, rising to -1 million from -350,000 spent last year. The minister further invited Russian businesses and groups to invest in Greece, making special reference to the programs available through the Tourism Development Company for the utilization of public tourism property.