Monday, 23 May, 2022

Turkey tourism recovery hurt by Russia invasion of Ukraine

ISTANBUL: Every Sunday Noori Sani welcomes his old friends around a bountiful Turkish breakfast in Istanbul. But surrounding him now are empty tables on his terrace at his restaurant by the Blue Mosque.

“On a day like this, we should be full,” the owner of Serbethane restaurant said in the city’s historic district.

Within a few days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainians and Russians cancelled reservations for trips, disastrous for Turkey where tourism represented 10 percent of GDP before the pandemic, reports AFP.

There had been high hopes for a tourism revival in 2022 and the sector was in desperate need of a boost after the Turkish lira lost significant value last year and inflation soared to over 50 percent in February.

Visitors from Ukraine and Russia made up over a quarter of all tourists who arrived in Turkey last year, usually opting for the turquoise beaches on the Mediterranean and Aegean, according to tourism ministry figures. “Russia and Ukraine are very important markets for us,” Hamit Kuk of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB) said.

Around 4.5 million Russian and two million Ukrainian tourists descended on Turkey last year.

TURSAB expected seven million Russians and 2.5 million Ukrainians this year, but Kuk said it would “likely have to review these figures”. “The war between Russia and Ukraine is making everyone nervous here. Both from a human and commercial point of view,” Kuk said. “Normally, there would be a rush of summer reservations in March. But the demand has stopped,” he added. “If it goes on like this, there will be a very serious problem,” warned TURSAB president Firuz Ballikaya.