More opportunities than ever are opening up for the development of tourism in the Union State of Belarus and Russia, Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus Sergei Afonin said during the first Russian-Belarusian tourism congress in Minsk, BelTA has learned.

"This forum is very relevant. More opportunities than ever are opening up for the development of domestic tourism, tourism between our fraternal countries in the Union State. This is a time of opportunities that we need to harness," Sergei Afonin noted.

According to him, now the tourism business of both countries have the opportunity to focus on the internal space and the places previously unexplored. "For example, few Belarusians have been to the Kuril Islands, the Far East, or Russians in Brest," Sergei Afonin said.

Sergei Afonin read out the welcoming address of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Belarus Boris Gryzlov. The ambassador called the forum a dialogue platform for expert discussion of topical issues and hailed it as an important contributor to the development of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

"The topic of tourism is more relevant today than ever. For some reason, we used to think that we such purely humanitarian areas are beyond politics. However, our former partners, unfortunately, decided to choose a different path - a divided and fragmented world. It is their choice that is creating a new reality. But at the same time, this situation is opening up new opportunities for all of us. We can state with confidence: the tourist potential of the Union State is truly unlimited, and the development of the hospitality sector is in the center of attention of the heads of state. Russia and Belarus are getting closer, not in words, but in deeds. We are launching new routes and destinations. Since the beginning of the year, new flights have connected Minsk with Ufa, Perm and Kaluga. Together we will be able to implement the most ambitious projects," the welcoming speech reads.

The first Russian-Belarusian tourism congress is running in Minsk on April 13-14. It focuses on the interaction between Belarus and Russia in tourism, tourism business and the ideas for the further development of the tourism industry of the two states. The congress has been organized by the Russian Union of Travel Industry with the support of the Belarusian National Union of Tourism Industry.