Turkish tourism to be first victim of Russian jet crisis

Russians are the second-largest national group visiting Turkey according to government statistics. (Photo: Cihan)

In a deeply worrying turn of events on Tuesday, Turkish tour operators were biting their nails after Turkey’s downing of a Russia1n fighter jet provoked Moscow to urge citizens to avoid Turkey trips, potentially meaning a major blow to the country’s nearly $4 billion in revenue from Russian visitors per year.

For many years, millions of Russian tourists have been the primary source of tourism revenue for Turkey. In 2014 alone, 4.48 million Russian tourists visited Turkey, bringing in revenue of nearly $4 billion, official figures showed. Turkey hosts some 40 million tourists who generate $34.3 billion in revenue every year. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying it had repeatedly violated its airspace. Hours after the event, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday advised Russians not to visit Turkey, adding that the threat of terrorism there was no less than in Egypt, where a bomb attack brought down a Russian passenger plane last month.

Lavrov also said he would not visit Turkey as planned on Nov.

25. Observers said this was apparently Moscow’s first official retaliation to the downing of its jet, a potential heavy blow to the Turkish tourism2 industry. On Tuesday, many Russian users shared tweets suggesting that Russian tourists boycott Turkey and Russia stop buying Turkish-made products. No Turkish government or any private sector officials were available to comment on the issue on Tuesday.

In a second statement that will potentially add to Turkey’s woes, Russia’s state tourism agency Rostourism said it is recommending suspending sales of tour packages to Turkey following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in Syria, RIA news agency reported on Tuesday. Separately on Tuesday, the TASS news agency cited Russian tour operator Natali Tours as saying it will halt sales of tours to Turkey in the near future. Tuesday’s downing of the Russian jet is one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century.

Nightmare, shock, losses

The two statements come as a nightmare to the Turkish tourism sector, which earlier said it had pinned its hopes on an anticipated increase in Russian tourists to Turkey.

Russian tourists used to flock to Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, particularly the resort city of Antalya. The Turkish tourism industry has already suffered from a difficult 2015 marked by political instability and regional violence in conjunction with a decline in one of the sector’s biggest markets Russia. Between January and October, Antalya alone saw the number of Russian tourists decline by 678,086, a 19.5 percent decline year-on-year. The major drop in Russians taking international trips, including Turkey, stemmed from the sharp devaluation of the ruble brought on by falling global oil prices and the Ukrainian crises.

One of the country’s leading tourism unions, the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (T ROFED), said last month the Turkish tourism industry is likely to close the year with at least $10 billion in losses. The poor numbers have had Turkish hoteliers scrambling to cut prices even in the busy summer months in a bid to fill up empty hotels. Earlier data from Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) figures indicated that tourist revenues fell 6.6 percent between January and September, totaling $24.89 billion.

A total of 80.9 percent of tourist revenue came from foreign visitors, TurkStat had said.


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Report: European Turks less keen in homeland holidays

The number of Turks living in the EU reached 5.4 million this year. (Photo: Cihan, Kadri K l )

The number of Turkish expatriates living in Europe1 and spending their holidays in Turkey dropped significantly, from 2.7 million in 2014 to 1.9 million in 2015, a decrease that shows the declining appeal of the country for Turks2 living abroad.

The Turkish-European Foundation for Education and Scientific Studies (TAVAK) released on Sunday its yearly tourism3 survey in which it polled some 1,450 Turks living in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Austria. The number of European Turks paying a visit to their homeland fell by some 800,000 this year, edging only slightly above its 2012 figure of 1.8 million. Such visitors numbered 2.3 million in 2013 and 2.7 million in 2014. The number of Turks living in the 28 EU countries reached 5.4 million this year.

The survey also revealed a decrease in the average length of time spent in Turkey, down from 29 days to 24, and noted that Turks are also spending less when in Turkey. In recent years, the average amount spent by European Turks per person per visit to the country was 1,100 euros in 2012, 1,170 euros in 2013, 1,320 euros in 2014 and is only 980 euros this year. The total figure for the respective years amounted to 1.98 billion euros, 2.69 billion euros, 3.46 billion euros and 1.86 billion euros. As to what prompted the decline in spending and travel, the survey noted that many expats under 35 are traveling elsewhere, particularly to Spain, Italy and the US, and that the elderly are often obliged to travel less due to worsening economic conditions.

A polarized socio-political environment also contributed to the decrease in the number of expats coming Turkey, the survey pointed out. In 2015, Turkey went through two parliamentary election campaigns, during which politicians explicitly targeted supporters of other political parties and those of different ethnicities, beliefs and lifestyles. The report also said Turks are no longer coming to see neighbors or relatives as often, but rather to spend time in touristic spots, like stanbul, Bodrum, Antalya, Marmaris and e me.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey has declined from 30 million in 2014 to 29.76 million in the year to date, according to Turkish Association of Travel Agents (T RSAB) data. Tourism revenue slid 6.6 percent in the same period to a total of $24.89 billion, Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) data revealed. At this time last year, that figure was $26.63 billion.

Amid escalated violence and tension surrounding two general elections this year, foreign embassies in Turkey issued several travel warnings to their citizens.


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