Thousands visit Greece from Turkey and Bulgaria during the holiday season, border data shows

Nearly 80,000 people visited Greece during the holiday season, according to data from three border stations provided by the East Macedonia and Thrace region police on Tuesday.

The crossings were reported at the customs stations of Kipoi and Kastanies (borders with Turkey) and Ormenio (borders with Bulgaria) from December 22, 2017 to January 7, 2018.

Of all arrivals, Turkish nationals totaled 21,071 and Bulgarian nationals 9,383.

Costas Hatzimichail, president of the Trade Association of Alexandroupoli, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) that “despite the constant increase in the number of arrivals, this does not mean a corresponding rise in spending.”

Based on the association’s data, he said, “there is a drop in spending” even in traditional sectors. “It’s the first time we don’t have spending for new technology products – very popular in past years – from tourists, especially Turks. It’s obvious that the drop in consumption follows the trend of the euro-to-Turkish lira ratio, which this past year was on average 1 to 4.5.”

He also called for urgent improvements in the Kipoi border stations, where tourists were subjected to long waits. “It is an embarrassment and a shame for the country,” he said about the customs station, and “exposes Greece to ridicule before people who contribute much to the Greek economy.”

A similar complaint was made by the president of the Thrace Hoteliers Association, Costas Hatzikonstantinou, who said that “the five- to six-hour wait at the borders is a deterrent to a visitor, who will think twice before coming back.”

He said that hotels were full at New Year’s and bookings were low at Christmas by both Greek and foreign nationals, but that was expected as holidays are traditionally spent at home. “The issue is that Turkish visitors continue to select our area (to visit) and this means that we must try to turn this into a permanent trend, and perhaps address higher economic classes, which are less affected by the currency exchange rates,” he added.