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Visa-free travel to boost Russian tourist numbers to Turkey

ANTALYA - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/25/2010 12:00:00 AM | BETÜL ÇAL

A 10-percent increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting the southern province of Antalya is expected this year following the lifting of visa requirements between Turkey and Russia. The trade volume between the two countries has already reached $40 billion. Russian tourists are especially attracted to Turkey by the country’s hospitality and service quality

Already the destination for millions of Russian tourists every year, Antalya is expected to welcome nearly 5 million tourists from Turkey’s regional neighbor within three years thanks to the lifting of mutual visa restrictions.

“Although the global tourism sector is highly competitive … today, the ongoing increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey is indicative of Turkey’s professionalism and success in the sector,” Mircalol Husanov, Russia’s consul general in Antalya, said Monday at the Russian Country Day held by the Antalya Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Mediterranean province hosted roughly 2.2 million Russian tourists last year. With a regular rise in the number of visitors every year, Antalya is expected to extend its share in the Russian market by 10 percent, reaching 2.5 million tourists this year.

Husanov said Russian tourists often choose Antalya because of Turkish hospitality and the service quality.

Putting a special emphasis on the positive effects of lifting visa procedures between the two countries, Osman Çetin Budak, chairman of Antalya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the move would open up a new era in trading relations between the countries, with 5 million visitors expected in 2011 once mutual visas are abolished.

The annual trade volume between the two countries, meanwhile, has reached $40 billion.

Agreeing with Budak, Husanov further said a conclusion regarding the legal formalities would be reached within two or three months. With the visa-free travel, citizens of the two countries will be able to visit the other country for a maximum duration of 30 days without any visa requirements. 

“This shows how important Turkey is for Russia,” said Husanov, adding that the recent bilateral visits by the heads of the states have not only ensured an environment of trust but have also fortified political relations between the two countries.

[HH] Psychological effects

Noting that Russia is the second largest country after Germany in terms of tourism potential for Turkey, Ahmet Barut, head of the Turkey Hoteliers’ Federation, or TÜROFED, said the lifting of visa requirements between Turkey and Russia will also have psychological effects in addition to its economic and political contributions.

“We learn from our colleagues how much the news has echoed in the Russian media recently. Both Russian citizens and the tourism sector keep a close watch on the developments about visa procedures with Turkey, which definitely creates a psychological effect,” he said.

Barut said the positive effects of lifting visa requirements with Syria, which has a population of 20 million, and Lebanon, which has a population of 4 million, were obvious.

“These effects will now be much wider in terms of relations with Russia, which has a population of 140 million,” Barut said.

Ali Mersinli, a partner of BlueSky Travel Agency, said there was no serious decrease in the number of Russian visitors to Turkey despite the serious losses experienced last year due to the global crisis.

Noting that these Russian visitors were responsible for giving an important boost to Turkish tourism in 2009, he said, “This proves the positive effect of Russian tourism in Turkey.”

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