Turkish economy benefits from Russian tourists' comeback

Turkey has recovered as one of the most popular holiday destinations for Russian tourists after a temporary decline due to a ban on charter flights. Besides airlines and hoteliers, the local retail sector is also enjoying the benefits of normalised Turkish-Russian ties. The share of Russian customers increased from 5% to 30% of all foreigners, and the figure is expected to reach 50% in the next few months.

An increased number of Russian visitors to Turkey has entailed a jump in the country's retail sector, reports Daily Sabah. According to retail sector representatives, shopkeepers are hopeful for the summer season and expect high shopping demand. For shop owners in Istanbul's popular shopping districts, such as Osmanbey, Laleli and Zeytinburnu, the Russian market is really significant. They suffered considerable losses because of the crisis in the two countries' relationship that broke out in November 2015.

Currently, 62% of exports from Istanbul's Osmanbey neighbourhood goes to the countries of the European Union, says Chairman of Osmanbey Textile Business People Association Rıdvan Kandağ, while the remaining share of Osmanbey's exports is directed to the Middle East and Russia. The latter is a significant market for Osmanbey's textile industry, considers Kandağ.

However, now the retail sector can enjoy the benefits of normalised Turkish-Russian ties. Surveys show that the share of Russian tourists among all foreign shoppers increased to 30% from 5%. Chairman of Textile Finishing Industrialists Association of Turkey Vehbi Canpolat expects that the share will reach 50% within six months. He also said that foreign tourists help to keep the retail sector vibrant and the decline in the domestic market has been compensated by Russian and Arab tourists. Turkish companies are now hiring Russian-speaking staff to serve Russian visitors, Canpolat added. The export volume of leather, the product that Russians buy the most in Turkey, increased from $60 million to $100 million, according to Istanbul Leather and Leather Products Exporters Association.

Leather goods are products Russians buy most in Turkey. Photo: Gareth Williams

Turkey is expecting an influx of Russian tourists during the 2018 FIFA World Cup this summer. The country's resorts are ready to accommodate Russians who do not like football and want to escape the hectic tournament atmosphere. ''Those who want to avoid the rush and crowd during the tournament are preparing to come to Turkey with the money earned from (tournament) tenants,'' said Neşet Koçkar, chairman of Anex Tour. Russia is supposed to welcome about 1,5 million foreign tourists during the World Cup. Hotels in the tournament's host cities are fully booked, and many locals have rented their flats out to tournament visitors. ''Russians like going on vacation, and the first destination they think of is Turkey,'' considers Koçkar.

By Anna Litvina