Ferry services between the Greek islands and Turkey’s coastal cities, which resumed in early February after two years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have an increase in demand and interest.
More than 10 Greek ports, including Kavala, Lesbos Island, Chios, Lemnos, Patmos, Kos and Rhodes, have been open to ferries from Turkey since February 7.
Since Turkey removed mask wearing in most public places on April 27, ferries between the two countries are now operations at full capacity, which were previously capped at 80%.
“Not only people from Turkey and Greece are using the ferries but also travelers from other nations enjoy this service,” said Yusuf Öztürk from the İzmir branch of the Chamber of Shipping.
"There are lots of people, particularly from South American countries, who first visit Turkey and then want to go to the Greek islands," said the Chamber official. "The ferry traffic is gaining momentum."
He noted that ferry services provide a lifeline to local economies where boats shuttle between Turkey and the Greek islands.
“People travel from the Greek islands to Turkish coastal cities to do shopping,” Öztürk said.
Marine tourism season has already made a good start and expectations are running high for the summer season, he said, adding that the number of reservations received for the ferry services is boosting hopes.
“Demand is particularly strong for the ferry routes between the Turkish resort district of Çeşme and Chios Island and between Ayvalık and the Lesbos Island and I expect the demand for ferry services to grow further,” Öztürk added.
People from the industry had initially feared that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine could have an impact on marine tourism.
“But those fears have not materialized," Öztürk stressed. "There has been strong demand for such tourism activity in the province of Antalya and [resort towns of] Marmaris, Fethiye and Bodrum.”
He, however, stressed that operators are having some problems due to rising costs.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s cruise tourism is also experiencing a revival after things started to return to normal as the pandemic situation has improved and most of the COVID-19-related travel restrictions have been eliminated.
The latest official data showed that the country’s ports welcomed 54 cruise ships carrying nearly 35,000 passengers between January and April this year.
In the same period of last year, no cruise ships docked at the country’s ports because of the COVID-19-related restrictions, whereas only five cruise ships visited Turkey with around 2,000 travelers on board in January-April 2020.
In the first four months of 2022, the Kuşadası district in the province of Aydın, on the Aegean Coast, was the busiest in terms of cruise traffic.
According to the data from the Transport Ministry, 32 cruise ships visited the famous resort town with 21,000 passengers. Istanbul ranked second with 13 ships and 10,600 visitors.
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