Although Russian authorities have suspended flights to Turkey until June, 60 percent of Russian tourists plan to visit Turkey on another date.
Despite the suspension of April and May flights from Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists are determined to continue their holiday plans in Turkey in the future.
On April 12, Russia announced it temporarily suspended regular and charter flights with Turkey. The suspension will last from April 15 to June 1, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said, adding that flights will resume if developments with the pandemic show a positive trend.
Executive director of the Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR) Maya Lomidze said the majority of Russian tourists who made early reservations in Turkey have not changed their destinations despite the travel restrictions, according to statements by the Russian Federation Council Meeting.
Lomidze said about 15 percent of Russian tourists decided to stay in Russia after the decision to halt travel.
About 18-20 percent of Russian tourists shifted their bookings to other destinations, with Cuba emerging as a top choice.
"The remaining 60 percent is waiting and hopes to go to Turkey [at] another date," Lomidze said.
For the April-May period, 500,000 Russians had booked tours in Turkey which then had to be cancelled.
Following the travel restrictions, around 50-60,000 Russians have switched to domestic travel destinations for now, Lomidze added.
Russian travel agencies were recommended to halt sales of tours to Turkey and Tanzania, where flights have also been suspended.
Why Russians visit Turkey
Not surprisingly given their northern climate, the major draw for Russian visitors are Turkey’s sun-kissed beaches.
Russian tourists visited Turkey more than any other country, with seven million in 2019.
Besides easing visa regulations between the two countries, Turkey also works to accommodate Russian tourists by ensuring Russian speaking staff are available at resorts.
Antalya is the top destination for Russians in Turkey, and has become renowned over the world in recent years, boasting more than 1,700 attractions together with a 600,000-bed capacity.
Visitors who come for the sea, can also reach its ski resorts within just three hours.
Tourism is one of the most severely affected sectors from the pandemic.
In recent years, Turkey has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world thanks to its natural beauty, historic and cultural sites, and great food.
A year before the pandemic, incoming tourists increased by 13.7 percent in 2019, reaching 51.8 million people, setting an all-time record.
In 2020, the Turkish tourism sector contracted by 65 percent.
In order to minimise the negative effects of the pandemic on the tourism sector, Turkish authorities introduced several measures such as “coronavirus-free” certification for tourist destinations.
Nadir Alpaslan, deputy Culture and Tourism Minister of Turkey, said that while the pandemic's effects will continue in 2021, necessary measures were taken by Turkey to ensure foreign visitors' safety.
The country is expected to host nearly 34 million foreign visitors in 2021.