Istanbul, Turkey – Although many Russian dissidents and young professionals to Turkey following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing war is expected to lead to a large drop in Russian tourist arrivals this year.
Association of Tour Operators of Russia CEO Maya Lomidze told Dunya The newspaper earlier this month while unable to give an estimate of how many Russians will visit Turkey in 2022, two million is considered a good number. That number would mark a sharp drop from 2021, when 4.7 million Russians entered Turkey.
Report from earlier this year claimed that the Russians saved Turkey’s tourism industry in 2021 after the country was trying to recover from the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. Russians topped the list of nationalities who visited Turkey between January and November last year.
Particularly popular among tourists from Russia are the resort towns in and around the province of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast. During the same period, 37% of all foreign visitors arrived in Turkey via Antalya compared with 34% to Istanbul.
Volkan Yorulmaz, president of Antalya’s Kemer Promotion Foundation, told Haberler news site, the predicted numbers pose a problem for the region’s tourism sector.
Yorulmaz said two million Russian tourists would not be enough at the end of last year, forecasting six million Russians on holiday in Turkey throughout 2022.
‘Puffy belly’ tourist facilities
Economists say the revised estimates may be too high.
Attila Yesilada, an analyst at Global Source Partners, told Al Jazeera: “First, even two million Russian tourists may be overly optimistic in the face of a large decline in Russian spending power and difficulties. increasing for Russians in accessing credit cards.
“My calculation is that assuming no Ukrainian tourists and a small number of Russians could cost Turkey 3-4 billion dollars in tourism revenue.”
“Jobs and value added damage will be substantial. That is, each tourist creates about three temporary jobs, and each tourism dollar generates up to $2.50 worth of revenue to the industries that supply the resorts. Finally, after two unlucky seasons, many tourist establishments that cater mostly to Ukrainian and Russian tourists may suffer, defaulting on their bank loans. I cannot estimate the extent of this particular problem,” added Yesilada.
In 2019, before the pandemic broke out, seven million Russians visited Turkey, while 1.5 million Ukrainians visited the country that year. As one of the most visited countries in the world, Turkey’s economy depends on a thriving tourism sector.
“In an average season, Turkey generates about $25 billion in net foreign exchange revenue from tourism, which accounts for half of the average trade deficit of $50 billion. This year, tourism revenue plays an important role in two large orders. Firstly, due to energy and food imports, Turkey’s current account deficit is expected to grow to $40-45 billion, or $25 billion higher than in 2021. Second, with With the German economy expected to decelerate rapidly during the year, export growth could beat expectations,” explained Yesilada.
Inflation soars, lira in trouble
Masha is a Russian citizen who has called Istanbul home for many years. One side of her family lives in Ukraine, the other in Russia, which she now hesitates to visit because political atmosphere. The pandemic has made reunions difficult while the current situation has only made matters worse.
“Last year, my whole Russian family went to Turkey and we met in [the Antalya resort town of] Kaş and we rented a villa. There were 10 of us and we didn’t want to stay in the hotel because of the pandemic,” Masha told Al Jazeera.
This year, the family planned to meet in Russia, but the plan was shelved because of war.
“I was on the phone with my uncle about options for this summer and Turkey was one of the only viable options again. It’s basically the only place we can meet but it’s complicated because flights are insanely expensive, four times more expensive than last year. And financially, my family in Russia is not in the best shape right now,” Masha said, adding that the family’s other travel plans to Turkey have also been disrupted.
Meanwhile, the drop in tourism and resulting loss of billions of dollars in revenue is expected to significantly affect the Turkish economy even after the season ends, adding to the bad news. amid soaring inflation and a slumping Turkish lira.
“The government planned to fix the exchange rate until the summer through administrative measures, such as a foreign exchange-protected lira deposit scheme and a 40% surrender requirement for investors. export. In the summer, rising tourism revenues and falling energy prices should increase the supply of dollars, allowing the lira to gain a stronger foothold for the rest of the year,” Yesilada said.
“This plan is currently in disarray. I calculate that Ankara needs to find up to $20 billion in external funding to protect the lira for the rest of the year. If this amount cannot be guaranteed, currency restrictions are a significant possibility. ”