Russian tourism to Turkey surges in first half of 2017

Russian tourism to Turkey surges in first half of 2017
Turkey has started to win back Russian tourists, with visitor numbers growing tenfold in the first half of this year.

"The flow of tourists to Turkey increased significantly this year due to lifting restrictions that were introduced earlier for charter flights. We estimate that about 1.6 million people have visited Turkey in the first six months, while there were just 168,000 people in the same period last year,” Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak told Rossiya 24 news channel.

According to Novak, tourism is essential in developing relations between the two countries and Russia is interested in the growth of Turkish tourism.

READ MORE: Turkey wants Russian tourists back amid ‘sudden’ industry decline – PM

Charter flights between Russia and Turkey were interrupted for nine months from November 2015 after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in Syria. This resulted in a 90 percent drop in tourists from Russia in the first months of last year. Turkish tourism lost $15 billion in 2016, according to Turizm Data Bank.

Moscow-Ankara relations began to improve after Turkey's President Erdogan apologized for the incident.

Before the disagreement, Russian tourist numbers were second to Germans visiting Turkey. Turkey depends on tourism which accounts for 6.2 percent of the gross domestic product and eight percent of employment.

In August, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lifted the ban on charter air services between Russia and Turkey.