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Turkey, Russia could opt for ruble-lira exchange for tourism

Tourists stand near the beach at the Kaleiçi marina in Antalya, southern Turkey, March 12, 2022. (AFP Photo)Ns News Online Desk

Ns News Online Desk: Turkey attracts growing number of tourists from Serbia: Envoy .President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday said Turkey and Russia may implement a solution that would allow tourism revenues to be paid in local currencies.

Erdoğan’s remarks come as the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens to impact Turkey’s crucial tourism industry, just as the travel sector was looking to rebound from the pandemic.

In an interview on his way back from a NATO meeting, Erdoğan told reporters that it would be ambitious to expect a serious increase in tourism in Turkey this year.

Russians and Ukrainians are the country’s first and third biggest sources of visitors, respectively. Russians accounted for 19% of foreign visitors in 2021, with 4.7 million people, while Ukraine was the third-largest at 8.3% with 2.1 million people.

They accounted for some 27.3% of the total 24.7 million visitors that arrived throughout 2021, up from some 15 million in 2020. The share jumped from 24.5% in 2020 and 19% in 2019.

Officials had hoped that with pandemic restrictions easing, tourism could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019 when some 52 million visitors – including about 7 million Russians and 1.6 million Ukrainians – brought $34 billion (TL 514.8 billion) in revenue.

NATO-member Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, is trying to balance those relations and has positioned itself as a neutral party trying to mediate.

Ankara has criticized Russia’s military actions in Ukraine as “unacceptable” but also said it would not give up on either side.

“In such a period, it would be too ambitious to say there will be a serious increase in tourism. Our tourism minister is continuing talks with other countries. We are also continuing our negotiations with all regions, including Russia, Ukraine and Poland,” Erdoğan said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also pledged that Moscow will not be putting any obstacles and would be encouraging its citizens’ travel to Turkey, he noted. He recalled that Turkey had earlier offered Russia to do business in national currencies.

“We had said let’s do it with our national money, our domestic money, and let’s make it work in ruble and Turkish lira,” Erdoğan said. “Now it turns out that we are right and they say that they can do this with ruble-lira and with different countries with money of those nations.”

He also stressed expectations regarding the increase in the arrivals of British tourists, also an important tourism source for Turkey, in the coming period. Erdoğan expressed the belief that Turkey will not have “very serious problems” when it comes to attracting tourists “because we are a reliable country.”


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