[IMG=20733-6505]Russian tour operators that organize tours to Italy say that receipt of documents in the Italian Consulate until late at night in Moscow turned out to be a common practice. However, on August 15th following the appointment of a new Consul, there was a national holiday in Italy, many consulate agents took a traditional August vacation, while a tourist flow to the country increased that generated unrest in the market. Will the Consulate cope with the increased work load? Will tourists leaving on August 19 – 20th get their visas in time?
Thus, Yuri Besputin, Director of SOLOITALIA S.r.l., commented as follows: ‘it is to early to make conclusions, the situation will be clear on August 17 – 18th – the most stressful days. But tit is evident the situation is becoming worse’.
Meanwhile, tour operators point out one more reason for delays in the Italian Consulate. ‘As far as we know consulate agents spend much time phoning tourists to confirm tour and booking details. They issue visa only after this. As a result for the last to weeks we have received visas at 1.30 a.m.’, said Olga Gerasimova, the Head of the Italian Department of ICS Travel Group.
Travel market professionals emphasize special control over tourists from certain Russian regions such as Nijniy Novgorod, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, South of Russia. It is understood that the choice might be explained by false information presented by some tourists from these regions while applying for visas. However, in general experts do not note the increased number of visa cancellations.
Furthermore, while Moscow travel companies spend overnight by the Consulate, tour operators from St. Petersburg are ‘loosing’ the Italian destination owing the ceiling for visa applications set by the Consulate in the city – 560 applications per week. The decision was provoked by shortage of staff and certain devices of the visa service, reported Fontanka.ru. Four tour operators from St. Petersburg that provide the biggest tourist flow – Neva, Flamingo, Intertrans, Balttour - have a privilege to submit 360 applications per week. The rest 200 applications per week are understood to be divided between other 74 accredited companies. As a result companies are suffering financial losses owing unsold and cancelled tours.
Nevertheless, some travel market professionals do not consider the decision of the Italian Consulate in St. Petersburg to be a crisis. ‘I believe that the ceiling for visa applications was set with consideration of real tourist flow. Therefore, I do not forecast drop in tourist flow to Italy from St. Petersburg’, explained Svetlana Belyasheva, the Head of Sales Department of Flamingo.
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