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Russian visitors resume travel to Turkey

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-08-18 08:15
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A view of Konyaalti beach amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Turkey's southern resort city of Antalya on June 19. Russian tourists started flocking to the city after four months of halted travel. [Photo/Agencies]

ISTANBUL - Russian tourists started flocking to Turkey's Mediterranean province of Antalya on Aug 10, after four months of halted travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 11 charter planes carrying tourists from several Russian cities landed at the Antalya airport, the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies says.

"We are expecting a total of 23,000 Russian visitors to Antalya today," Firuz Baglikaya, head of the TURSAB, says, adding that the regular daily flow of tourists from Russia is significantly increasing tourism professionals' morale.

Baglikaya says Turkey's travel agencies and tourism industry were among the sectors that suffered the most from the pandemic under the travel bans in March.

Turkey hosted 45 million tourists last year and expected a higher number this year by hosting more Russians before the pandemic erupted.

However, only 4,006 Russian travelers visited Turkey in June, down from just over 1 million during the same month last year, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry reports.

"The tourist arrivals are now increasing again, especially from our main markets ... offering hope for the future of the sector," Baglikaya says.

Antalya has introduced strong epidemic controls, local media report, showing photos of the Russian tourists passing through thermal cameras.

Airport officials have continuously warned tourists to obey social distancing, always wear masks and use hand sanitizer, which has been placed in many locations throughout the terminal, media report.

"I had a difficult time because of the pandemic. Now, I don't want to think about anything but a vacation," a Russian tourist was quoted as saying in a video aired by the NTV broadcaster.

Additionally, the Bodrum and Dalaman airports in Turkey's southwestern province of Mugla started to welcome Russian tourists on Aug 10, according to the TURSAB.

"We have been informed that 735 charter flights from Russia are planned to arrive at Dalaman Airport until the end of October," Baglikaya says, adding that 1,100 Russians would arrive at the airport on the day alone.

Turkish and Russian authorities had earlier decided to resume air travel between the two countries, a move that had prompted hope among Turkish tourism representatives.

COVID-19 cases in Turkey surpassed 249,000 on Monday, with a death toll of 5,974, according to the latest official data.

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