The Greek Island of Lesvos (Mytilini) is expecting a major increase of Turkish weekend visitors this year thanks to a visa facilitation scheme that has launched once again. Last month, the island welcomed some 1,200 Turkish tourists just on the weekends.
The visa facilitation program* allows non-European Union citizens from Turkish ports to visit selected Greek islands in the eastern Aegean without a visa from a Greek consulate.
According to figures provided by the police authorities of the North Aegean, during the 17-18 May weekend, Lesvos welcomed 1,549 Turkish visitors for the 19 May holiday (95th anniversary of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s arrival in the northern city of Samsun from the occupied Ottoman capital Istanbul).
In statements to Greek news site capital.gr, the president of the island’s hoteliers association, Pericles Antoniou, said last year the island attracted some 40,000 visitors from Turkey over 27,000 in 2012. This year, visitor numbers from Turkey are expected to reach or even exceed 60,000.
It is estimated that the the average expenditure per day of Turks visiting Lesvos is over 50 euros per day (meals and accommodation). However, Mr. Antoniou said that tourists from Turkey are big spenders when it comes to good food and shopping for designer clothes. Half of the Turkish visitors that visit Lesvos usually spend at least one night on the island.
On their part, the island’s hoteliers have launched offers for Turkish visitors, aiming to increase their overnight stays, which in turn would result in significant revenue growth.
According to capital.gr, hotel owners on Lesvos have seen a significant drop in turnover since 2009 due to the decrease of visitors from Northern Greece and the high ferry ticket prices. The return ticket for two people to visit Lesvos with their car is said to cost some 400 euros.
* The visa facilitation pilot program permits Turkish tourists or other non-EU citizens visiting Turkey that wish to visit the islands of Rodos, Kos, Samos, Chios, Lesvos and Kastelorizo – for less than 15 days – to issue visas either through Turkish travel agents or straight from the ports of the islands (with the proper documentation).