Turkish authorities are scrambling to protect one of their most critical industries, as its tourism sector continues to suffer as a result of the war in Ukraine.
Turkey is one of the favorite destinations of Russian tourists. In 2022, the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB) had expected as many as 7 million travelers from Russia, reaching the pre-pandemic levels as international restrictions were progressively lifted. Similarly, around 2 million holidaymakers from Ukraine were also forecasted to visit the country.
Visitors from Ukraine and Russia made up over a quarter of all tourists who arrived in Turkey in 2021.
With the eruption of the war in Ukraine, however, this optimistic forecast had to be revised. International sanctions imposed on Russia meant that thousands of bookings were canceled.
The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Finance are considering several measures to cope with the international sanctions and the collapse of the ruble that disrupted the holiday plans of many Russian tourists, according to the Turkish daily Sabah.
An agreement was reached with Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines under which they committed to respectively provide 1.5 million and 0.5 million seats to Russian passengers. In addition, the Turkish authorities are considering the creation of a new charter airline based in Antalya dedicated to Russian tourism, which could add a further 1 million seats.
To support the influx of passengers, $300 million in state-guaranteed loans would be provided to Turkish tour operators established in Russia, such as Anex, Pegas, and Coral.