Around half million Russian tourists visit Antalya after Russia lifts charter ban

Around half million Russian tourists visit Antalya after Russia lifts charter ban

Around half million Russian tourists visit Antalya after Russia lifts charter ban

DHA photo

Around half a million Russian tourists visited Antalya after Russia lifted a ban on charter flights thanks to rapprochement between the two countries following a jet crisis last year, data compiled by Doğan News Agency has showed. 

A total of 432,000 Russians visited the resort in the last three months, in contrast to the mere 20,000 compatriots who visited Antalya amid a jet crisis in the first eight months of 2016. The number of Russians visiting Antalya thus increased nearly 96 percent between the January-August and the September-November periods, when ties started to normalize again after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed regret to Russia’s Vladimir Putin over the incident.

Erdoğan paid a visit to St. Petersburg on Aug. 9, marking a first face-to-face meeting with Putin since mending the ties with Russia. It was also the president’s first foreign visit after a failed coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey. 

The loss of Russian sun-seekers 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).

These negativities have mainly hit Turkey’s tourism hub Antalya, as 52 sectors have posted record high losses with the sharp decline in tourist numbers. While over 2.8 million Russians visited Antalya in the last 11 months of 2015 until the jet crisis erupted, this figure decreased to 452,000 over the first 11 months of this year. 

“The day of Nov. 24, 2015, marked the start of disastrous year for us. Turkey’s tourism sector saw its 25 years of efforts eliminated overnight,” the head of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED), Osman Ayık, was quoted as saying by Doğan News Agency. 

The normalization in ties showed its effects immediately. 

“Even in just two months, we have started to reap the fruits of normalization in our ties with Russia, fortunately,” Ayık said, adding that it would be possible to slowly return to the halcyon days of Russian tourism.

The first Russian charter plane carrying tourists to Turkey since Moscow lifted travel sanctions imposed over the crisis landed in Antalya Sept. 2.

The Royal Flight airlines plane touched down at Antalya airport after Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev signed a decree which lifted a charter flight ban in August. 

More than 2,000 charter flights have been conducted since then in addition to scheduled flights, Doğan reported. Despite the onset of winter, authorizations have been granted for 80 charter flights from Russia to Antalya. 

Turkey shot down a Russian war jet on Nov. 24, 2015, on the grounds that it had entered Turkish airspace along the border with Syria, prompting Moscow to impose a number of sanctions on Turkey, including a ban on charter flights to southern hotspots like Antalya.