Turkish tourism professionals have welcomed a decision that would allow Russian police officers to spend their annual holiday in Turkey.
The police officers and their families may create a tourism potential of about 2.5 million people. The local tourism industry expects an additional of 1 million Russian visitors minimum as a result.
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev earlier this month inked an order, authorizing Russian police to spend their annual leaves in Turkey and Thailand.
Russian police were prohibited to go abroad in 2014 when the Russian Foreign Ministry published a list of 116 countries not recommended for traveling. The police need special authorization to go abroad due to security reasons. Russian police officers have not been able to visit Turkey on holiday for the last four years, said Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) Chairman Osman Ayık.
"There are about 1 million police officers in Russia. This means a potential of about 2.5 million tourists including their families. There are about as many soldiers and military men," Ayık told Anadolu Agency (AA), pointing to the significance of the decision.
Ayık said Russia has yet to allow similar permission to its military personnel but may do so in the near future. "If such a decision is made, it will mean potential 5-6 million tourists for Turkey. We expect this to make a very positive contribution to the number of guests coming from the Russian Federation," he added.
Russia has long been the number one market for Turkey's tourism industry, except during the period of the jet downing crisis in November 2015. Prior to the crisis, Turkey was the number one holiday spot for Russians. Following the normalization of ties between the two countries, the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey increased even further and reached an all-time high.
According to official figures, Russia was the top country with 5.96 million visitors last year, accounting for 15.1 percent of all foreign visitors to Turkey. The Mediterranean city of Antalya is the most popular destinations for Russian tourists.
According to the Antalya Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, the holiday resort city has hosted about 1.25 million Russian tourists in the first five months of this year, a 20 percent increase year-on-year. Officials now expect over 6 million Russian tourists to visit Turkey this year.
TÜROFED Chair Ayık emphasized the segment of people, who have not come to Turkey for a long time miss th
e country, adding that as the decision has been taken quite recently, its impacts on figures are yet to be seen. "We will see its reflections on figures as of autumn. We can see the real numerical increases clearly in 2020. We expect an additional minimum of 1 million increase in the number of Russian visitors," he said.
Professional Hotel Managers Association Chairman Ülkay Atmaca said Russia has made an important decision in terms of Turkish tourism. "Russian police officers was directed to other countries the last four years," he said.
Atmaca added Russian security officials who previously took a holiday in Turkey would prefer Turkey again due to the quality of service and product range.
"We think it will bring great dynamism. As of the next month, the mobility will start. However, the decision has just been announced. There are those who have already made their holiday plans. In this respect, we think that this decision will have a clearer effect in the coming years. Considering their families, we can see the potential of at least 1 million tourists in our country," Atmaca said, underlining that they expect a lot of movement, especially after July.