Passport-free travel to Turkey adds 600,000 visitors from Russia

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Tourism professionals expect that visa-free travel to Turkey for Russian citizens will increase the number of visitors from the country by 600,000, extend vacation periods and boost travel frequency.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Turkey and Russia are holding talks to allow Russian citizens to travel to Turkey without a passport. “We’ve started meetings in order to pave the way for Russian citizens to come to our country [only] with their ID cards, without a passport,” Çavuşoğlu said and noted that he will meet Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov tomorrow in Antalya and in Moscow in April.

Minister Çavuşoğlu’s statements were hailed by tourism professionals who estimate that the number of Russian visitors to Turkey will see a 10 percent increase, adding 600,000 more visitors from the country. This new practice, they said, will extend the season in Turkey and the traveling frequency from Russia to Turkey will be higher. Russia was the top country with 5.96 million visitors last year, 15.1 percent of all foreign visitors to Turkey. Turkey welcomed 39.5 million foreign visitors in 2018, a 21.84 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Erkan Yağcı of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB) confirmed that there are a great number of Russian tourists that have high traveling potential but do not hold any passport. “This particular group will directly prefer Turkey for vacations,” Yağcı said. He also added that the Russians who visit Turkey once a year may visit the country twice a year, or even three times. Therefore, he said, Turkey is likely to record a 10 percent rise in the number of Russian tourists.

Tez Tour General Manager Sezgin Özer highlighted that if visa-free travel is implemented, it could even boost the number of Russian visitors to Turkey by 1 million. Now that the hotels are already booked for the period of June to September, visa-free travel could also extend the season from April to November.

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