Turkey could lose billions in all sectors of their economy after the government shot down a Russian jet on the Turkey-Syria border. Tourism might be the first to suffer, as the country hosts over four million Russian visitors a year.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled his trip to Turkey, but also advised Russians not to travel to the NATO country.
“The critical mass of terrorist incidents on Turkish soil, according to our estimates, is no less of a threat than in Egypt,” he declared. “For this reason of course we do not recommend that our citizens travel to Turkey for tourism or any other reason.”
AFP is reporting there are 10,000 tourists in Turkey currently. Natali Tours, one of Russia’s largest tour companies, suspended all packages to Turkey.
“We assessed the situation and realised that it could develop according to the most negative scenario. It’s better to halt sales of tours until the situation clears up,” announced its president Vladimir Vorobyov.
Reuters published a factbox about Russia and Turkey economic relations. Turkey enjoys visa-free travel with Russia, which only became more popular after the Kremlin stopped all flights to Egypt after a bomb crashed a flight in the Sinai Peninsula. Reuters calculated “4.4 million Russians, including 3.3 million Russian tourists,” visited in 2014.
Russian state tourism agency Rostourism is also “recommending suspending sales of tour packages.” The majority of tourists visited Antalya, a city on the Mediterranean coast, which has already suffered losses in 2015 due to Russia’s horrible economy. The city only recorded the visits of 678,086 tourists between January and October, “a 19.5 decline year-on-year.” Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED), the top tourism union, said in October the entire industry “is likely to close the year with at least $10 billion in losses.” From Today’s Zaman:
The poor numbers have had Turkish hoteliers scrambling to cut prices even in the busy summer months in a bid to fill up empty hotels. Earlier data from Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) figures indicated that tourist revenues fell 6.6 percent between January and September, totaling $24.89 billion. A total of 80.9 percent of tourist revenue came from foreign visitors, TurkStat had said.
Russians took to social media to protest Turkey’s actions. They equated Turkey with tourism, but also vowed to never vacation there.
Russia did not include Turkey in their ban of Western food imports in 2014. That year, “4 percent of Turkey’s exports, mainly textiles and food, worth $6 billion went to Russia.” Turkey is also the “second-largest buyer of Russian natural gas after Germany.” The government purchases the most Russian wheat and steel semi-finished products in the world. Kremlin propaganda outlet Russia Today reported that Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s food safety regulator, “stopped a 162 ton shipment of chicken from Turkey for not having proper food safety certificates” on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of Turkish companies operating in the construction business in the Russian market; there is cooperation in the tourism sector,” explained Dmitry Abzalov, the vice president of the Center for Strategic Communications. “The termination of relations with Moscow on these issues will be negative for the Turkish economy, and it will hit the national currency the lira.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the many joint projects between the two countries could be in danger. The Turkish government “commissioned Russia’s state-owned Rosatom in 2013 to build four 1,200-megawatt reactors in a project worth $20 billion.” The TurkStream pipeline project could be affected as well. Russia started the pipeline as a way to transport natural gas to Europe without going through Ukraine.