Russian bureaucracy weakens tourism

European tourists visiting Russia have fallen by a quarter this year

The Russian Tourism Industry Union acknowledges that visits from European countries to Russia have dropped significantly. 
The number of Finnish tourists has fallen by almost 25 percent, according to official statistics, in 2011. There were 10 percent less Germans over the same period, 14 percent less French and Spaniards. 
Tour operators blame the complicated procedures and the cost of visas for foreigners. 
People who want to go to Russia need an invitation from a hotel, an organisation or a personal friend. Moreover, tourists in Russia must register with the local police.
Russians can get long-term multiple entry tourist visas to Europe, whereas Russia only provides single or double entry tourist visas that cannot extended.
Nevertheless, visits to Russia have risen by 5 percent, thanks to Asian tourists.
The Independent
[pictured: Snow wind on a bridge, Russia]