Visa-free travel to lure more Bulgarian shoppers
A recent decision that no longer requires Bulgarian citizens to obtain visa to visit Türkiye is expected to lure more shoppers to the country, particularly to the provinces on the common border.
The respective decision, which allows Bulgarian visitors to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days, on visa-free travel has been published in the Official Gazette on July 27.
The move is designed to attract more tourists from the neighboring country, which will give a boost to hard currency earnings of Türkiye.
Over the past year, Bulgarians have flocked to Turkish cities in the country’s northwest, especially the province of Edirne for shopping.
They buy anything from local businesses from clothing to food and to construction materials.
The latest decision is expected to lure even more Bulgarian shoppers to the country.
“This a welcome move. Edirne will definitely enjoy the advantage of being a border town,” said Kemal Cingöz, head of the Edirne Tradesmen and Artisans’ Associations (EDESOB).
Bulgarians mostly visit the shopping centers and retail chains, buying mostly clothing, Cingöz added, voicing optimism that amid the new decision on visa-free visit the number of tourists from the neighboring country will increase.
As soon as the visa-free travel decision was announced Bulgarians flocked to Edirne by buses and private vehicles.
Local businesses are already seeing the effects, said Metin Doğan, a shop owner in the province.
“It was a weekday, but we had shoppers from Bulgaria,” he added.
İbrahim Halil Özer, another businessowner, said he expects an influx of Bulgarian visitors especially in August.
There was a long queue of cars at the Kapıkule border crossing. Some of the motorists were traveling back to Bulgaria, while others entering Türkiye.
“We are buying almost anything here in Edirne…cheese, olives, anything. I am very pleased with the visa-free travel decision, which will make traveling between the two countries much easier for us,” said Sevgi Rasonova, a Bulgarian citizen.
Between January-May, nearly 950,000 Bulgarian nationals visited Türkiye, claiming the second spot in the list of foreign tourists after Germans. Bulgarians accounted for 8.3 percent of all foreign tourist arrivals. Over the same period, Türkiye welcomed more than 1.3 million Germans.
In May alone, nearly 270,000 Bulgarians visited Türkiye.
In the first five months of 2022, Edirne welcomed 1.3 million tourists, according to the latest data from the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
However, Turkish citizens are still required to obtain a visa to visit Bulgaria.
Nationals of 16 countries, including Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Greece as well as Georgia do not need a visa and enter Türkiye with their IDs.