The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said on Wednesday during a visit to Russia''s Far East that tourism could play an important role in strengthening Russian-U.S. economic relations.

At the meeting with Russian officials in the Far Eastern island of Sakhalin, Beyrle said Russia and the United States had good ties in energy, as well as fishery and forestry, and tourism was like an unopened pearl, which could bring the two countries together.

The U.S. ambassador said bilateral visits had great importance in the countries'' relations, adding that this year Washington granted 200,000 visas to Russian students, 32,000 of them under work & travel programs.

Beyrle met with local business leaders, including members of the Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation (FRAEC) and U.S. business representatives, and gave a lecture on Russian-U.S. relations at Sakhalin State University before flying back to Moscow from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

The goal of the trip, Beyrle''s first to Russia''s Far East since his appointment in May 2008, was to consider the possibilities to develop relations between Russia''s Far East and the U.S. Pacific states of Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington.