Local tourism industry closely watching Ukraine war

Local tourism industry closely watching Ukraine war

Local tourism industry closely watching Ukraine war

Turkish hoteliers are closely watching the war in Ukraine as the geopolitical tension in the region may have repercussions on the country’s key tourism industry.

Turkey is a major destination among Russian and Ukrainian holidaymakers. Last year, 4.6 million Russians and 2 million Ukrainians vacationed in the country, making up the first and third largest group of foreign visitors, respectively.

Hoteliers, who are already facing harsh times due to the pandemic, pinned their hopes on the revival of tourist inflow from those two countries this year. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now keeping them on the edge.

“We had been expecting to break new records [in terms of visitors] this year but not an event like this. Peace is a must for tourism activity to continue in a healthy manner. We will take a sigh of relief if the peace is restored,” said Firuz Bağlıkaya, the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).

Bağlıkaya warned that if the war continues, Turkey will lose not only Russian and Ukrainian tourists but also those from Europe.

He noted that initially, they expected some 9 million Russian and Ukrainian tourists to come to Turkey this year.

“Even if the war ends, we may not still have as many tourists as we had forecast this year. But still, at least 4.5 million to 5 million people from Russia and Ukraine may visit Turkey this year,” Bağlıkaya said.

Some countries’ economies will not be greatly affected by the conflict and people in those nations will still be traveling, and they are likely to come to Turkey, he added.

Normally, Russian tour operators would be selling Turkey holiday packages this time of the year, but they have not received any new reservations for Turkey in the past week, said Tolga Gencer from TÜRSAB.

“Turkey has always been Russian holidaymakers’ top destination. If the situation improves, reservations will pick up again,” he added.

Yet Gencer voiced concern that flights from Russia to Turkey may be at risk as Airbus and Boeing joined sanctions against this country.

“Scheduled flights won’t be enough, there must also be charter flights [from Russia],” he said, adding that Russia’s exclusion from SWIFT may also spell troubles for the Turkish tourism industry.