After the complete ban on ferry travel between Turkey and Greece that lasted two and a half years, ships started crossing the sea again this spring – an encouraging sign for Greek tourism. In March and April, 30,000 people arrived on the Eastern Aegean and Dodecanese islands from Turkish ports, and it is estimated that up to 1,000 passengers a day can arrive during the summer months.
Since most of the ferry companies operating on these routes are Turkish, Greek shipping was not affected in any major way by the ban, but local economies on the islands were. During the pandemic, the loss of income on some of these islands due to the lack of tourists arriving from Turkey has been felt, especially out of season.
The routes mainly concern Rhodes, Kos, Patmos, Samos, Chios, Lemnos and Lesbos, as well as Kavala. Many travelers choose to visit the islands for a one- or two-day trip during their vacation in Turkey, while others use the ferry connections for long-haul trips, continuing to other islands, the mainland and other European countries. As Yusuf Öztürk, representative of the Turkish Maritime Chamber in Izmir, pointed out in an interview with Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, ferry services are also used by Greeks who travel to Turkey for day trips.
Moreover, the lifting of the ban was great news for cruise lines, which can now sell itineraries with stops in Turkish and Greek ports. The latest official figures show that Turkish ports have welcomed 54 cruise ships this year, most of which include the Greek islands, carrying nearly 35,000 passengers between January and April.
This article first appeared in Greece Is (www.greece-is.com), a publishing initiative of Kathimerini.