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12 Jun 2015

Polish tourists become first to enjoy Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s 72-hour visa free policy

BREST, 12 June (BelTA) – The first foreign tourists took advantage of the visa-free mechanism to visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park via the international border crossing point Pererov (Bialowieza), BelTA informs.

A group of 27 tourists from Poland was welcomed at the border by representatives of the national park and journalists. The Polish group included representatives of Polish travel agencies, hotel business, press and tourists. They were accompanied by the local authorities of the Podlaskie Province and Consul General of Belarus to Bialystok Alexander Berebenya.

According to Marshal of Podlaskie Province Mieczyslaw Kazimierz Baszko, it was a long-awaited event. “It is great that a visa-free regime has been launched for tourists here. We are happy it has been made possible and we invite everyone to use this border crossing in order to increase the exchange of tourists. It meets the interests of our peoples,” the marshal said.

Consul General Alexander Berebenya expressed hope that this visa-free movement would become bilateral soon. “Yet, unfortunately, we have it in a unilateral way. I think that very soon our people will get an opportunity to see the beauty of Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the Polish side,” the diplomat said.

It took the group less than 30 minutes to cross the border, including all border control procedures. The program of the first one-day trip will include a visit to the museum of nature, open-air cages, the Residence of the Father Frost, the museum of ethnography and a sightseeing tour around the park.

According to Director General of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park Alexander Bury, thanks to the novelty the park may earn up to Br25 billion a year. “Over 150,000 people visit the Polish part of the park every year. According to the survey we have conducted, half of them would like to visit the Belarusian part of the park. Therefore, we forecast that the number of tourists will go up by 50,000 people in the least,” the head of the national park said.

Event tourism will be used to lure travelers to the Belarusian part of the park. According to Alexander Bury, the national park has a well-developed infrastructure. There are hotels for 300 guests and eight food facilities. We have craftsmen who sell a wide range of souvenirs. There are plans to develop the northern zone of the national park once the number of tourists starts increasing. “The potential is big. We can accommodate up to 1 million tourists today. Yet, this figure is half as large at present,” the head of the park said.

Good prospects in the Belarusian initiative are also seen by organizer of the first visa-free trip to Belovezhskaya Pushcha, director of a travel agency in Bialystok Yevgeny Lavrinyuk. “I have been working with the national park for years and believe that it is a historic trip. Our tourists often asked me how to get to the Belarusian part of the park. Many were discouraged by the necessity to obtain a visa. Today a traveler to Belovezhskaya Pushcha needs only a passport, a medical insurance. We register special passes for tour groups in cooperation with the park,” the Polish tour operator said.

Visa-free trips for visitors of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park were introduced on 12 June 2015. In line with Council of Ministers’ Resolution No.414, foreigners will be able to stay on the territory of the park visa-free for up to 3 days. Visa-free access is available via the border checkpoint Pererov-Bialowieza. A special pass is needed to visit the national park without a visa.

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