Russian tourists return to sunny Turkish beaches

Russian tourists return to sunny Turkish beaches

Russian tourists return to sunny Turkish beaches

After Turkey and Russia negotiated a resumption of flights between the two countries, Russian tourists once again chose the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya for their “safe vacation” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Direct flights from several Russian airports to Antalya and hotspots in Turkey’s southwestern Muğla province, Bodrum and Dalaman restarted yesterday. Flights from Russia to Istanbul had restarted on Aug. 1.

Turkey ranked first among countries visited by Russian nationals for tourism last year, with nearly seven million tourists coming to the country.

Antalya often described as the heartland of the Turkish tourism industry for its blue-flagged beaches, historical artifacts, and scenic sites that hosted six million Russians in 2019.

This year, in line with measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Turkey once again began to host Russian tourists.

After five months of a pause, tourists from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport took off for Turkey’s Antalya province, where they landed early on Monday with 519 passengers.

Turkey’s national flag carrier Turkish Airlines and low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines are among the companies to have flights from Russia to Istanbul and the Turkish coastal resorts of Antalya, Dalaman, and Bodrum. Charter flights will also carry Russian tourists to Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean destinations.

According to aviation authorities, a total of 20,000 Russian passengers were expected to land at the Antalya Airport yesterday.

“Apart from 80 Russian flights, 20 flights from Germany, 20 from Ukraine and 20 from Britain are on schedule,” said Fraport TAV Antalya Airport General Manager Deniz Varol.

The second terminal of the airport, which was closed amid the anti-pandemic measures, has been reopened, he added.

Rıza Perçin, a local official of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) in Antalya, said that all tourism employees were feeling joyful as Russian, German and British tourists started arriving in the city.

“Anti-pandemic measures will be implemented strictly. We will host our guests under healthy conditions without stretching the rules,” he said.

Turkey is being closely watched

Tourists coming from Russia all expressed how much they missed Turkey and Antalya as soon as they arrived at the airport and their hotels.

Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Alexandra Trushlyakova said she landed in Antalya for a week-long vacation. “I came as soon as the borders opened. I plan to spend all of my time in the sea [...] I’ll shake off this year’s exhaustion in Antalya,” she said.

Another tourist who arrived with her friends, Anna Cherepkova, told them they bought their tickets as soon as they found out flights would resume.

“It feels like a dream, we’re planning a great vacation.”

“Many of our friends are also counting the days to come down here. We received a lot of information about Antalya before coming [...] We’re very happy now,” said Anna Zhila, who also landed in Antalya.

Tatiana Korniova, who is in Antalya with her husband, said they had come to the Mediterranean city on vacation in the past years.

Saying they felt that Turkey is the safest country for a vacation amid the pandemic, Korniova said, “We’ve closely followed Turkey’s measures taken during the pandemic and chose Turkey for our holiday destination without a second thought [...] We’re happy to be here for vacation and believe we’ll enjoy a safe and delightful holiday.”

Nearly 400 hotels, restaurants, and other tourism facilities have taken part in the Safe Tourism Certification program in Antalya.

The tourism industry in Antalya has gained momentum as local tourists, Ukrainian and British visitors have begun to flock to the city last month, staying in hotels included in the program.

Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Turkey was expecting 58 million tourists - domestic and foreign - this year, with more than $40 billion in revenue.