After Turkey and Georgia signed a protocol that allows border crossings with only ID cards, Batumi has been invaded by Turks who rush to fill the casinos. Engin Arikan, Turkey’s consul general in Batumi, says that the number of Turks coming to Batumi doubled since last year. He states, “They close their shops and head straight to the casinos here. Now we are overwhelmed by telephone calls from their Black Sea wives who call us to say, ‘My husband hasn’t come home. Is he on your side?’ We are doing our best to help.”
Arikan said roughly 250,000 Turks crossed the border with their ID cards during the first four months of 2012, adding that the crossings are not only for tourism. Large delegations from provincial chambers of commerce have been visiting Georgia to investigate investment opportunities.
The consul general said that at the moment, there is only one Turkish bank in Tiflis. Now, Turkish banks are looking into opening branches in Batumi. Labor and energy costs are considerably lower in Georgia than in Turkey, and there are many production opportunities. Currently, there are four Turkish textile companies in Georgia exporting their goods.
Turkish Airlines, which had previously been operating three weekly trips between Istanbul and Batumi, is set to start daily flights. The increased air traffic will mean another 8,500 people will travel to Batumi each month.