Turkish Resorts: Life Without Russian Tourists


Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

3rd January, 2016


More than 1300 hotels on the Turkish coast of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas are for sale, the Istanbul newspaper Today’s Zaman has reported. The main reason for the tourist collapse, according to the newspaper, lies in the deterioration of the security situation in the country and in the deepening political crisis in relations with Russia.

The tourism industry of Turkey is now experiencing one of the worst periods in its history. The industry recently brought into the Treasury approximately $24 billion of income annually, it is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Hotels in Antalya are most affected, a traditional places of rest of Russians. The resort hotels are full of signs reading “For Sale”. According to the Istanbul paper, 410 tourist sites are for sale in Antalya. This record rating is not far behind other Turkish resorts of Mugla (349), Izmir (203), Aydin (162), Balikesir (139), Canakkale (35) and Denizli (20). The total cost of selling real estate in Antalya is about 30 billion Turkish liras ($10,115 billion), and the other 908 is estimated at 8.8 billion liras ($2,97 billion).

Turkish tourism real estate lost value in the first place because of the lack of Russian tourists. “Income from our tourists, who visit Turkey, is very significant. According to estimates for most of Turkey, this amount is about $10 billion annually”, said the head of the Federal tourism Agency Oleg Safonov to RIA Novosti.

Every year Turkey receives more than 4 million Russian tourists, most of which stay in the hotels of Antalya. After the imposition of sanctions on Russian guests — and therefore their income — it seems to have been lost. “Specifically, Russia’s 4.5 million tourists is approximately $4.5 billion of losses”, — said the President of the Association of tourist businesses and hotels in the region of the Aegean Mehmet Isler to the newspaper Today’s Zaman.

In an interview with Today’s Zaman, the owner of one of the hotels of Antalya, Abdurahman Karamanlis, complained that many hotels on the Turkish Mediterranean coast were on the verge of bankruptcy. The reason was the absence of tourists from Russia, which previously imposed a number of sanctions against Turkey, including in the field of tourism.

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“We’re talking about what is happening in reality, while Turkish officials are putting on a “brave face” while discussing the problem. The crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia seriously affected our business. Antalya hotels suffered especially, many of which just closed in the last four months,” said Karamanlis.

Since the deterioration of relations with Russia after the incident with su-24 in the skies over Syria, 6 thousand tours were cancelled, and now Turkish businessmen declare their businesses are facing an impending disaster. In the resorts of Turkey you can still see signs in Russian and meet the Russian-speaking salespeople in empty shops, but now it’s more for nostalgic reasons.

The Turkish government says that in the absence of panic, the tourist business will be able to recover by the spring, but not many people are rushing to believe it. Turkish entrepreneur Mehmet Ali Gultekin notes: “Even if you keep calm and turn a blind eye, you cannot ignore the fact that tourism in the region is severely damaged. Since most agencies are now starting to plan tours for next year and to enter into agreements with airlines, the negative effects from Russian sanctions is obvious now.”

According to Gultekin, damages suffered due to the loss of Russian tourists in Antalya can be compensated by no more than 15% by tourists from other countries. We are talking about a fundamentally different target audiences. Russians buy luxury items and book sightseeing tours, and European tourists, many of whom are retirees, are not as active and often do not come out of the hotel complexes.

Among other reasons for the sale of the resort hotels, the newspaper Today’s Zaman cites the economic difficulties, the decrease in the number of tourists from European countries, cancellation of bookings, and hoteliers’ debts to banks.

“Many hotel owners took the money and then are unable to pay them back, after the deterioration of the situation. In addition, the crisis with Russia has forced hoteliers to sell their hotels”, — the newspaper quoted a realtor Ismail Lake. According to him, more than a hundred tour companies have expressed a desire to exit the industry.

At Turkish resorts and in other cities of the country, visits of German tourists have become less and less, says Today’s Zaman. The decrease in the number of tourists arriving from Germany occurred after the terrorist attack in Istanbul on January 12th, which killed ten citizens of Germany. This put salt on the wound of the already stagnant local tourism industry. The Russians and the Germans represented the two largest groups in Turkey.

The Turkish government refrains from estimating the damage that will be caused from the sanctions on the Russian tourist business. However, local entrepreneurs are confident that the tourism industry is doomed to a crisis which will last for a very long time.

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