Duvar English - Reuters - Thousands of Russian tourists began arriving in Turkey on June 22, boosting hopes for the local tourism sector after a two-month suspension in flights imposed by Moscow due to concerns about a surge in COVID-19 cases in April.
Turkey's tourism prospects have been revived by a sharp fall in daily coronavirus cases to around 5,000 from a peak of more than 60,000 two months ago, as well as an acceleration in vaccinations to more than 1 million a day.
The first plane arrived in Antalya from Moscow around dawn, carrying 132 passengers. Some 12,000 Russians were expected to arrive on 44 planes in the Mediterranean tourist hub of Antalya on June 22, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
"In the last two weeks, we are seeing better figures and better trends in daily reservations. Russian tourists are very keen to come to Turkey," TUI Fun&Sun Hotels CEO Volkan Şimşek told an online tourism meeting on June 21.
"Similarly daily reservations that we are getting from the German market are encouraging. The Russian market is going well, the German market is going well," he said, with Germans expected to arrive from the start of July.
Some 2.13 million Russians visited Turkey last year, the highest level of any country but down from 7 million in 2019. The number of German visitors fell to 1.1 million last year, from more than 5 million in 2019.
Russia halted most flights to Turkey on April 15 and said last week they would resume on June 22.
Tourism revenues dived two-thirds to $12 billion last year and made a weak start in 2021 as COVID-19 hit an industry which accounts usually for up to 12% of the economy and is key to curbing the current account deficit.
Şimşek forecast that the market for British tourists would open after mid-July and that the tourism season was expected to be extended to the end of November, but that a full recovery would take longer.
"I don't think it will be possible to make up for the losses of the last two years in the next six months. It will only be possible to do so when everything returns to normal in 2023."