Russian charter flights to Turkish resorts resume after ties mended
Russian tourists were welcomed by flowers in Antalya. DHA photo
The first Russian charter plane carrying tourists to Turkey since Moscow lifted travel sanctions imposed over the shooting down of a Russian jet landed in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya Sept. 2.
The Royal Flight airlines plane touched down at Antalya airport after Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev last month signed a decree which lifted a charter flight ban, Doğan news agency reported.
The plane, which took off from Moscow, was carrying about 309 passengers, it added.
Russia had banned charter tourist flights to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara's shooting down of a Russian war plane in November 2015 on the Syrian border.
Turkey and Russia normalized ties in June after Turkey's President sent a letter to Russia's Vladimir Putin expressing regret over the incident.
The loss of Russian sunseekers was a severe blow to Turkey's tourism sector, which had already been battered by a string of attacks blamed by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Mediterranean resorts are particularly dependent on Russian business.
The number of foreign tourists in Turkey fell 30.3 percent in the first seven months of the year, according to official data published last month.
Çetin Gürcün, secretary-general of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), hailed the return of holidaymakers from Russia, calling it a "major market."
With the season almost over, Gürcün said up to 600,000 Russian tourists were expected this year.
"The number is quite low if we think 4.5 million Russian tourists visited Turkey in 2014," he added.
If business returned to its pre-2015 levels, Turkey could expect 5 million Russian tourists in 2017, he added.
Turkish Airlines has increased the number of daily flights from Ankara, Antalya and Istanbul to Moscow to 11, making the Russian capital its top daily international destination.