Alarm bells toll for Turkish tourism sector over Russia crisis
Burak Coşan - ISTANBUL
AA PhotoTurkish tourism representatives have voiced concern after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov advised Russians on Nov. 24 not to visit Turkey, after Turkey downed of a Russian plane on the Syrian frontier.
Lavrov also said the threat of terrorism in Turkey was no less than in Egypt, where a bomb attack brought down a Russian passenger plane last month. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 25 backed a recommendation from the foreign ministry for Russians not to visit Turkey after the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Ankara.
"After such tragic events like the destruction of our plane and the death of our pilot, this is a necessary measure," Putin said in televised comments.
Russia’s tourism agency then recommended the suspension of package holiday sales to Turkey, although some said they will not cancel reservations to Turkey in a joint statement on Nov. 25.
“This is no good. We cannot lose the Russian market, which is the second largest source of Turkey’s tourism sector. We have already lost over 800,000 Russian tourists over this year due to economic woes in [Russia], and had to make significant cuts in hotel prices to overcome our losses in addition to other concessions. Despite this, we still cannot close the gap,” said the head of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED), Osman Ayık.
Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) President Başaran Ulusoy expressed his wish to see Turkey and Russia in peaceful relations.
“Russia is of great importance for our tourism sector. We want to see the resolution of the problems between the two countries immediately. We would like to see Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resolve the issue via dialogue,” he said.
Specifically, Turkey’s seaside resorts are among the most popular tourism destinations for Russians. Russia is Turkey’s second-largest number of tourist market after Germany, despite the relatively recent decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey due to economic problems in Russia.
Turkey saw a decrease of approximately 25 percent in the number of tourists from Russia and its neighbors over this year. However, Turkey did become more attractive for Russian tourists after Moscow suspended flights to Egypt. Around 3.3 million Russians visited Turkey over this year.
Turkey’s tourism revenues declined 4.4 percent, reaching only $12.29 billion in the third quarter, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) said on Oct. 30, amid security concerns and a decrease in the number of Russian tourists visiting the country.