24-hour flight from Russia to sail in Greek island of Kos. What is the price of a dream?
I love talking to travelers. This October, on the way from Athens to Moscow my flight mate was a man of about my age. During four-hour flight I found out that Maxim and his friends rented a small yacht in Kos harbour. The team travelled about three weeks from one Greek island to another, enjoying the sea, warm welcome of locals, and excellent food. Maxim described me his journey in all the details, although the most challenging part of the story was not about traveling in Greece, but about getting there.
The thing is that Maxim is from Blagoveshchensk, Meссa of Russian gold mining, the town in 8 000 km away from Moscow. Blagoveshchensk borders on the Chinese urban district Hēihé, separated only by 800 meters of River Amur. The Chinese and the Russians living here enjoy visa-free regime between their countries, so shopping on weekend in the bordering state is a common case. But for coming to Greece every Russian needs a visa. The closest Greek visa center is in the city of Khabarovsk which is 700 km away from Maxims home town. My new friend had to come to Khabarovsk twice because of a missing evidence paper (which, by the way, was not listed as an obligatory). So, application for a Greek visa costed Maxim 2 800 km drive, about 300 euros for consulate and visa center fee, and car tanking, plus a couple of missed business days.
When the visa was issued, the shortest way to start to Greek island of Kos was via Moscow. Eight-hour flight from Blagoveshchensk to Moscow costs about 400 euros, but for Maxim as for an inhabitant of Far East region of Russia and a father of three children, which flights within Russia are supported by the Russian government, the tickets to Moscow cost only 80 euros. The flights from Moscow to Athens and from Athens to Kos were most probably the easiest part of his long itinerary to Greece.
According to Maxim, the sailing journey was a fantastic one. Now he and his friends plan a trip to Corfu for the next summer. The problem is that his Greek visa was issued only for three months! So, next year the visa adventure will start from the very beginning. I was deeply impressed by the wish of my fellow neighbour to come to Greece. Thought it’s much easier for him to yacht in Mariana Trench, he still dreams of sailing in Europe.
The tourists from Russian Fare East are repeated guests in South - Eastern Asia. Many of them own or rent estate in these resorts. Now it is obvious that they are bored by Asian holidays and their interest towards Europe is growing. But visa regulations ban the tourism flow.
I was wondering why the government of Greece is not as much interested in such travellers as Maxim who actually bring rather good money to their country. Fare East of Russia is wellbeing region which could get some exceptional procedures in visa application, for example, longer period of visa validity or possibility to apply online. Travel flow is like a river in a corridor which can be open or closed by the state leaders. The Schengen visa application process has almost blocked the corridor, leaving just a weak brook. Still I believe that Greece is able to change the river course.
Natalia Klimenok, graduated from two the most popular Russian universities, Moscow State Linguistic University in 2001 (specialization - linguistics and intercultural communication) and Moscow State University in 2002 (specialization - PR and publicity), several years worked on radio station, before to come to tourism industry in 1995. 8 years she worked in one of the biggest tour operator in Russia, Labirint Travel Company, the main wholesales for such destinations as Greece, Finland and Scandinavia. Natalia has experience in MICE industry, including cooperation with federal organisations. Natalia has PhD in social science. Recently Natalia works in Baginet Sales and Marketing Agency as Executive Director.