The Greek island of Rhodes has launched a new visa service for Turkish tourists. This service started on Monday, April 1, and aims to reduce the long-standing tensions between Greece and Turkey. The new visa allows Turkish people to visit 10 Greek islands for up to one week without needing a Schengen area visa. This step is part of a larger plan to improve relations and increase trade between the two countries.

Greek Islands' New Visa Policy for Turkish Tourists

In recent efforts to move past old disputes over sea boundaries and mineral rights in the Aegean Sea, Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, have initiated several cooperative projects. One significant moment in this process was the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in December. They signed several agreements to work together more closely. Mitsotakis has announced a reciprocal visit to Turkey next month.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis emphasized that the visa is available throughout the year, not just in the summer. It aims to encourage tourism during off-peak times, benefiting the local economies of these islands. The Independent shared that the new visa system is in place at various Greek ports, costing €60. It includes a passport check and fingerprint recording, but it restricts travel beyond the Greek Islands to other EU countries.

The initiative has sparked a lot of interest from Turkish visitors, although the first boat arrivals are expected later in the week, according to Vassilis Vayiannakis, the head of the Rhodes Port Fund. The islands included in the visa program are near Turkey and include popular destinations like Lesbos, Limnos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Symi, and Kastellorizo. More islands will join the program in June.

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This new visa scheme is a response to Turkey's long-standing request for easier travel rules for its citizens within the EU in exchange for help with managing immigration. Tourism is crucial for the Greek economy, with the country hosting 32.7 million visitors last year and earning €20.5 billion. The Greek Islands are looking forward to welcoming more Turkish visitors, hoping to strengthen economic ties and friendship between the two nations.

Expected to be the Top Destination for Eid

Tourism experts predict the Greek Islands to be the favorite overseas spot for the upcoming nine-day Eid al-Fitr holiday. Recep Yavuz from the Antalya City Council Tourism Working Group shared that visa-on-arrival services will start on April 1 on seven out of ten islands, with ferry and police preparations complete. 

Yavuz advised travelers to check for possible closures in April and prepare 60 euros ($65) for the visa fee. Costs for ferry transport can range from 40-80 euros, and staying in a four-star hotel might cost between 50-70 euros per person daily, according to Hurriyet Daily News. Yavuz noted Lesbos, Chios, Kos, Rhodes, and Kastellorizo as the most popular among these islands, expecting up to 20,000 Turkish tourists due to the ease of travel and affordability.

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