Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy and representatives of the tourism sector have said that the flight restrictions imposed by Russia until June could cost Turkey 500,000 tourists.
Russia said it will restrict flights to and from Turkey from April 15 to June 1 as new coronavirus infections rose to an all time high in Turkey, prompting fresh lockdown measures.
"The date when the flight ban ends could be brought forward depending on a fall in COVID-19 case numbers. There might be a fall of near 500,000 in tourist numbers," Ersoy said, adding that there are no issues with summer bookings.
On April 12, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that a Russian delegation would visit Turkey's tourist destinations soon to observe coronavirus control measures in the areas.
The outbreak slashed Turkey's tourism revenues by two thirds last year, an economy reliant on tourists to bring in foreign currency revenue that helps curb its chronic current account deficit.
Commenting on the losses of the tourism sector, Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) former head Osman Ayık said that Moscow's move would push the opening of the tourism season back.
"Plenty of facilities were preparing to open and they will postpone their openings as a result of Russia's move," Ayık told Duvar, adding that it's difficult to predict when the business will return to usual.
"Life has come to a near halt. It's impossible for us to survive with domestic tourists only," he noted.
Recep Yavuz, a tourism professional in the southern province of Antalya, echoed tourism minister's remarks, saying that Moscow's restrictions will cost Turkey at least 500,000 tourists between April 15 and June 1.
"What's left will be tourists from Ukraine and some countries from eastern Europe at the beginning of the season. However, they don't add up to the number of tourists from Russia as a whole and it's not enough to sustain this season," Yavuz told Duvar.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, meanwhile, dismissed that Moscow's move is politically motivated.
"This was a decision adopted solely over health concerns. A Russian delegation will come and see the precautions in Turkey," Çavuşoğlu said on April 14.
Russia's decision to drastically cut the number of flights to Turkey, which is heavily reliant on revenue from tourism, was announced two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Istanbul.
Erdoğan, alongside Zelenskiy, expressed his readiness to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict in breakaway pro-Moscow eastern regions in Ukraine, where tensions recently flared.