Turkey and Russia took steps towards restoring ties, and Turkish-Israeli relations have been in the process of normalization with the agreement signed over the weekend, actions welcomed with excitement by the Turkish tourism sector, after the hard days experienced due to the sharp fall in the number of Russian tourists, as well as due to terrorist attacks in eastern districts of Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin on Monday expressing regret over the downing of a Russian jet in November 2015, which has led to a rise in optimism from the tourism sector, who hope that losses incurred in the first half of the year will be compensated in the future.
Başaran Ulusoy, the chairman of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), said that the tourism sector finds recent developments very positive in terms of their contribution to the Turkish tourism sector, which has suffered from tensions between Turkey and Russia. He pointed to the considerable rise in the number of tourists coming from Israel, saying the number of Israeli tourists rose to 60,683 people, an increase by 40.39 percent over the same first five months of 2015. Ulusoy thinks the normalization of relations means brighter days await the tourism sector.
Osman Ayık, chairman of the Turkish Hotels Federation (TÜROFED), said they expect a quick recovery for the tourism sector, thanks to recent improvement in relations with Turkey from Russia and Israel. Ayık added they aim to attract one million tourists from Israel.
The latest developments in Turkish-Russian relations were welcomed with satisfaction by Russian tourism sector counterparts. In an interview with the Govorit Moskva radio station on Monday, the press secretary of the Russian Union of Tourist Industry Irina Turina said, "We even screamed with joy, as the Russian market needs Turkey very much... All tourists and agencies suffer a lot from a lack of access to Turkey. No other destinations compete with Turkey on the price-quality ratio and in the level of service. We hope now for a decision to open Turkey."
The Tourism Ministry announced Tuesday that the number of tourists visiting Turkey in May decreased by 34.7 percent over the same month last year, which is the sharpest fall since 1994. In May, 2.5 million tourists visited Turkey, and the total number of visitors for the period between January and May was 8.3 million, decreased by 22.9 percent over the same period last year.
While most of the tourists in May were Germans with 17.2 percent, Germans were followed by Georgians and Britons with 9.2 and 8.8 percent, respectively.
The number of visitors from Russia saw a sharp decline of 91.8 percent with 41,000 visitors in 2016. The share of Russian visitors among all tourists in Turkey shrank from 13.2 percent to 1.65 percent.