Greece as the most popular destination for Turkish tourists?
One has to admit that what first attracted Turkish tourists to Greece was a more satisfactory price-quality balance compared to Turkey. A number of Turkish tourists were fed up with spending big on what they saw as mediocre food. They were tired of emptying their wallets for accommodation that tended to be more pretentious than comfortable. They were frustrated with paying high prices for places that lacked aesthetic taste and suffered from noise pollution.
As a result, more and more Turkish tourists started to head to Greece. Geographical proximity certainly helps. It takes around four hours to drive from the European side of Istanbul to catch dinner in Alexandropoulos near the border, while it is just a one-hour sea journey in the Aegean and Mediterranean to reach the Greek islands and a one or two-hour flight to Thessaloniki or Athens.
Greece can also offer familiar food to those Turks who do not want to venture into different culinary experiences, while there is little need to talk about Greece’s historic richness and traces of historic Turkish heritage that make the country even more attractive to Turks.
What’s more, to our shame, you increasingly hear this too: “Greece is much cleaner than Turkey.”
Let me suggest another reason that factors in the popularity of Greece for Turks: Some people who enjoy Turkish resorts simply want to get away from Turkey and its depressing agenda. Greece may not be enjoying the best of its times domestically, but that does not bother Turkish tourists who want to find peace of mind in a place they can reach quickly.
However, while the Greek authorities may disagree, increasing complaints about Turkish citizens getting Schengen visas from Greek missions may harm the country’s popularity among Turks.
There are other factors that might ultimately make Greece less popular for Turkish tourists. The depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the euro has made Greece less attractive economically. What’s more, Turks have been talking so much about how cheap Greece is that some Greek shop owners have started to increase their prices for Turkish customers. And finally, as sad as it may sound, some want to run away after seeing so many Turks flooding every corner of their country.
None of these observations should make us jump to generalizations and quick conclusions. Still, it would not be surprising if we soon see some Turkish tourists deviating from Greece in favor of other destinations.
One alternative is Turkish Cyprus. Despite all the ties connecting Turkey and Turkish Cyprus, tourism interactions between the two remain far below the potential. With the recent collapse of peace talks on the island, the search to empower the Turkish side is intensifying and campaigns encouraging more tourism toward the island will increase.
The Balkans are also on the rise. With no visa requirement, Bosnia-Herzegovina is a particularly popular destination for Turks with a more conservative lifestyle. Also with no visa requirement, Macedonia is waiting to be discovered. Once a highly recommended destination as it did not require a visa, Croatia, which has been asking for a Schengen visa ever since it became an EU member, could be replaced by Serbia, where still no visa is necessary. Montenegro is another country that has a lot to offer Turkish tourists’ tastes but remains underrated among Turks.
To the east, Georgia is also waiting to be discovered by Turkish tourists. Turkish citizens can enter Georgia with only their national identity cards, and there is a misconception that this is only valid for border cities. Only a one-hour flight away from Istanbul, Tbilisi and the beautiful Georgian countryside offers splendid opportunities to trekkers; it may also be appealing to those who are longing for nature’s green landscapes as they hope to flee from the rapid urbanization in almost all cities across Turkey.
It takes a little longer to fly to fly to Tunisia, but this is another country that does not ask for a visa from Turkish citizens. Going there as a tourist you really do understand why it has been a filming location for the Star Wars movies, and today it is one of the more exotic alternatives for Turkish tourists.