Countries within the Schengen Area operate essentially as a border-free landmass, so that people don’t need to go through passport checks when they arrive by land, air, or sea from another Schengen Area country. This is a huge boon for economies and tourists alike, as it eliminates a lot of the hurdles people often need to go through when they cross an international border.
Bulgarian Finance Minister Asen Vaskov Vasilev recently told news network CGTN that he expects the change could increase the country’s GDP by three to five percent. But aside from economic benefits, nixing border controls has also been shown to improve foreign relationships in the past. Just look at the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for a prime example—the two countries fought bloody battles from the 1960s to 1990s when there was militarized control of the border. Now, Ireland, the United Kingdom (which includes Northern Ireland), the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands are all part of the Common Travel Area, which eliminates passport checks for movement between them, similar to the Schengen Area.
However, there is one potential tourism drawback for some non-European visitors to Bulgaria and Romania once the changes kick in. All visits to these two countries will now count against their 90-day allowance for visa-free Schengen Area visits.
Currently, citizens of many countries—including Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are already able to visit Bulgaria and Romania visa-free for up to 90 days every six months. The same is true for the rest of the Schengen Area. But the difference is that visits to Bulgaria and Romania don’t currently count against travelers’ time allowance in the Schengen Area, and they will once the new rules come into place.