While many countries have put sanctions in place against Russia, and have made it hard for Russians to visit, Turkey is doing exactly the opposite. The country has just revealed three programs that are intended to increase the number of Russian visitors, which will no doubt be controversial.
Turkey’s plan to attract Russian visitors
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey was expecting seven million visitors from Russia this year, and two million visitors from Ukraine. Combined, Russia and Ukraine make up over one quarter of the annual international visitors to Turkey.
Turkey’s government has announced a series of measures intended to increase the number of tourists from Russia, including:
- An agreement has been reached for Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines to provide a total of two million additional seats to Russian tour operators, meaning we’ll see significant capacity increases on Russia flights
- Turkey is providing up to $300 million in state-guaranteed loans to Turkish tour operators established in Russia, including Anex, Coral, and Pegas
- Turkey is working on establishing a new airline that will be based in Antalya and will only transport tourists from Russia to Turkey; this is expected to add an additional one million seats per year
Is it wrong to woo Russian tourists?
Turkey actively seeking out Russian tourists will rub many people the wrong way, and probably for good reason. I think this also gets at the bigger question of punishing people for the actions of their government:
- For example, I think Turkey is one of the most beautiful countries in the world; I love the people (they’re genuinely hospitable), I love the food, I love the culture, and I love Turkish Airlines, but I’m certainly not an Erdoğan fan (to put it mildly)
- That’s not that different than Russia, in the sense that I don’t think Russians can individually be faulted for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
- On some level the logic for sanctions that impact the lives of average Russians is that it will hopefully cause them to rise up against Putin, as challenging as that may be; with Putin having nukes, there’s only so much the international community can otherwise do
- If Turkey isn’t going to put sanctions in place against Russia (which obviously isn’t going to happen), is it wrong for airlines, the tourism sector, etc., to respond to where demand is?
- Even countries like the United States aren’t actually banning Russian tourists, but rather they’re just making it hard to visit, by banning flights from Russia
Does this rub me the wrong way? Yes, on the surface. Do I think this is a cut-and-dry situation, and that trying to ban tourists from Russia will accomplish much? I’m not convinced it will.
Since Turkey’s government definitely isn’t going to put sanctions in place against Russia, I suppose it’s not unreasonable that the tourism sector is responding to where the demand is.
While other countries are adding restrictions against Russia, Turkey is actively trying to attract Russian tourists. This comes in the form of loans to Turkish tour operators in Russia, two million additional seats being added between Turkey and Russia, and possibly even the creation of a new airline.
I suppose none of this should really come as a surprise. It’s not like Turkey’s government was going to do anything against Russia, so if that’s the case, it shouldn’t be surprising that the country still wants Russia’s tourism dollars.
What do you make of Turkey’s attempt to attract Russian tourists? Is it reasonable to respond to where demand is, given the lack of restrictions in place, or is it just plain wrong?