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    NEW YORK, March 5, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Andrei Loshchilin) - The first joint conference of leading American and Russian tour operators since the collapse of the Soviet Union will take place in New York on Friday.

    At the "Discover Russia" conference, perspectives on increasing the flow of tourists from the United States to Russia will be discussed and the considerably enhanced capabilities of the Russian tourist industry will be demonstrated.

    According to the information provided by the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York, in 2003 less than 100,000 American tourists visited Russia. Fewer American tourists visited Russia than tourists from West European countries, Poland, China and the Baltic states.

    "As far as long-distance recreation tours by Americans are concerned, there was a slump after September 11, 2001 and the Iraqi War, which affected Russia among others," Nina Zharova, the regional commercial director for America and Northern Europe of Intourist, said.

    "We would like to increase our cooperation with American partners. We have unlimited opportunities for organizing tours, and not just to Moscow, St. Petersburg or the Golden Ring," she added.

    According to her, Russian tour operators want to attract the attention of American travel agencies to tours involving northern Russian cities and the Trans-Siberian Railway.

    About 200 American travel agencies are expected to take part in the New York conference.

    The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Russian Union of the Tourist Industry and RIA Novosti organized the "Discover Russia" conference.

    This year, presentations of Russia's opportunities for overseas tourists will also be organized in Washington, Seattle and San Francisco.

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