site.btaWhy Is Turkey Making it Easier for Bulgarians to Visit and Travel?
After a decree of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was gazetted on Wednesday, Bulgarian nationals can now enter Turkey on just an ID card for a tourist visit of up to 90 days within a period of 180 days. The news made the headlines.
Bulgaria is the first European country whose nationals have been granted such a convenience regarding travel to that country.
Years ago, even when it began accession negotiations with the EU, Turkey unilaterally lifted visas for Bulgarian nationals. Again for the travellers' convenience, single coronavirus testing was allowed on Turkish territory, to avoid double testing.
Now Turkey is taking yet another step in making travel for Bulgarians easier.
There was a time when many Turks travelled to Bulgaria on vacation or shopping. Foods like yellow and white cheese, meat, and last but not least, liquor, were bought because they were cheap and the purchasing value of the Turkish lira against the Bulgarian lev was an important advantage.
Now, though, the flow of tourists has turned from Bulgaria to Turkey due to the devaluation of the Turkish lira by about 80% per cent (to date, TRY 10 exchanges for BGN 1.07) and the rise in the price of goods in Bulgaria. A record was set this last April, when more than 10,000 Bulgarians visited Edirne, which has a population of some 100,000, in just one day.
Bulgarians do not visit Turkey just for shopping, though.
The restored Bulgarian church of Saint Stephen has become one of the most visited tourist sites along with Istanbul’s other landmarks. Thousands of Bulgarians from all parts of the country flock to the megalopolis on major holidays like Easter and Christmas.
The Aegean sea resorts are a favourite destination for thousands of Bulgarians.
In May alone, 57,874 Bulgarian tourists visited Turkey, ranking Bulgaria among the top five countries in tourist trips.
The President's decree coincides with the peak of the tourist season, so Bulgarian citizens will find it easier to holiday in Turkish resorts, as well as to travel to more distant places such as the Turkish Black Sea coast or Eastern Anatolia.
Turkey also unilaterally waived visas for some Arab tourists and as of last month its Black Sea coast, which is cooler, is full of them.
The other side of the medal
Bulgaria's visa requirement for Turkish citizens remains a problem.
Bulgaria has abolished visa requirements for Turkish diplomatic and service passport holders. Turkish officials say, however, that this is not enough.
Civil organizations in Turkey have repeatedly demanded the lifting of visas on a reciprocal basis or visa facilitation.
"Turkish citizens love Bulgaria, they want to visit it more often, on weekends, to go on holiday with their families, at any time of the year, but visas are a serious problem that also has an economic side, especially for families with children," the Chairman of the Confederation of Rumeli Balkan Turks, Sabri Mutlu, told BTA.
Some time ago, the Bulgarian Hotelier and Restaurateur Association called for a visa waiver for Turkish tourists in order to attract them in larger numbers to the country.
There is also a pressing need to ease red tape and expedite Bulgarian visa issuing to Turkish nationals.