Turkish tourists are rushing to the Greek islands on cruise ships as the accommodation and food and drink prices in the crisis-hit country have plummeted since the crisis.
Cruise operators expect 50,000 tourists to visit the neighboring islands this year alone, pushed up by the high occupancy rates on tours to Greek resorts departing from around 10 Turkish ports.
Turks, who began to dip their toes in Greek waters after Greece lifted the visa requirement for green passport holders, rushed to islands to jump into the sea after the country facilitated visa obtainment by providing visas at border gates amid the falling prices due to the financial crisis.
Turkey became the country with the fastest growing cruise market thanks to the rising demand for cruise tours to Greek islands among Turkish vacationers, said Ahmet Yazıcı, cruise tourism department chief of ETS Turizm, one of two companies operating between Turkish shores and Greek islands.
The company began its operations with one ship for the route but to meet the soaring demand it has allocated two ships for Greek island tours, Yazıcı said.
“There is strong demand since the tours are visa-free. All of our ships depart full; we even have a waiting list,” he said, adding that the company was considering routes to new destinations next year as they expected a flock of over 50,000 tourists.
Ahmet Subay, a high-ranking officer of the Shipping Chamber and an agency owner, said the tourist movement that used to flow from Greece to Turkey had been reversed since the economic crisis in Greece and the number of Turkish holiday-makers going to Turkey had risen eightfold.
“Particularly cheaper meat and alcoholic beverage prices have increased the attraction [of the Greek islands],” he said, claiming the economy of the islands remained vivacious thanks to Turkish tourists. He said the Turkish side expected further easing of visa requirements in the near future.