Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia lashes itself to punish Turkey

According to the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), the decision to limit flights to Turkey means the closure of the most popular tourist destination among Russian tourists. The decision of the Russian authorities will lead to a large number of postponed tours and deal a huge blow to the tourist industry.

According to ATOR, the total number of tourists who booked tours to Turkey from April 15 to May 31 (for the time when regular and charter flights from Russia to Turkey will be suspended) counts 533,200 tourists, of which more than 40 percent are families with children. The tours that have been booked for this period of time are evaluated at a total of 354.6 million euros (32 billion rubles), according to the ATOR website.

Another 71 million euros (6.4 billion rubles) will account for the losses of medium and niche tour operators that switched to booking expensive tours to Turkey in the absence of their own traditional travel range. Another 6-7 thousand Russian tourists were to visit Tanzania in the same period of time.

"Taking into account that up to 90% of all tours booked for this period include charter flights, the termination of charter flights with Turkey will be practically tantamount to the cancellation of almost all bookings," the message posted on the ATOR website says.

Turkey's tourism business is also shocked by the decision of the Russian Federation to significantly limit air travel, a source in the industry told RIA Novosti.

"We are shocked. We were going to open hotels this season, first of all, expecting the Russians to arrive. Now they have to postpone the time when they can start working. There is no one to replace the Russians, since few tourists come from Europe now, and Turkish tourists do not travel during Ramadan - this is a traditional calm period in domestic tourism. This will be an incredibly difficult period for the tourism sector," the source told the agency. 

Turkey has finished supporting those who were forced to be unemployed due to the pandemic. "Now, when they have to go to work, they will not be able to start working again as their forced unemployment will continue. It remains unknown whether the state will continue the financial assistance," the source added. 

To crown it all, Russia's decision to suspend flights with Turkey may push other countries follow Russia's example.

The Russian tourists who currently remain in Turkey and Tanzania will be able to return to Russia as planned, in accordance with end dates of their tour.

The Russian government has decided to suspend air communication with Turkey due to a sharp increase in the incidence of the coronavirus infection in the country. Anna Popova, the head of Russia's consumer rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, said that after the opening of borders, the tests from as many as 25,000 of 3 million Russians who traveled abroad returned positive results. Eighty percent of those people returned home from Turkey. 

Putin punishes Erdogan

At the same time, Russia's move to suspend flights to Turkey could be based on political reasons. On April 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky in Ankara, where he discussed military contracts with him and expressed Turkey's comprehensive support for Ukraine. Erdogan also set out a hope that Ukraine would soon become a NATO member. 

It was on the eve of Zelensky's visit to Turkey, when it was reported that Russia may suspend air communication with Turkey. At the same time, the epidemiological crisis in Turkey began to deteriorate rapidly since mid-March.

This is not the first time, when Russia closes air communication and prohibits selling tours to Turkey. In 2015, Russia took a similar decision after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian aircraft on the Syria-Turkey border. The pilots ejected, but the commander of the crew, Oleg Peshkov, was subsequently killed. Navigator Konstantin Murakhtin managed to escape. Marine Alexander Pozynich was also killed during the rescue operation.

  • The Turkish administration insisted that Russia's Su-24 violated Turkey's airspace. However, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, there was no violation of Turkish airspace.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin then called Turkey's act a "stab in the back." Putin signed a decree on special economic measures against Turkey.
  • Russia thus stopped selling tours to Turkey and banned imports of Turkish agricultural and other products. 
Su-24 shot down