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GİLA BENMAYOR

gbenmayor@hurriyet.com.tr

GİLA BENMAYOR >Russia will save Turkish tourism

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The East Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel Exhibition (EMITT) has opened its doors in Istanbul on the same day the Hotel Association of Turkey (TÜROB) announced that hotel occupancy rate in Turkey was the lowest in Europe in 2016, with only 50.8 percent of the total number of rooms being full. EMITT has triumphed as the world’s fifth largest fair in the past 21 years. Held between Jan. 26 and 29, the fair, in its brochure, calls itself, “The Fastest Growing Tourism Exhibition in the Region.” 

In its early years, EMITT had been holding its events in a small hall in Istanbul. Now it holds its events in Istanbul’s biggest exhibition center, TÜYAP, taking up 11 halls, covering 70,000 square meters of space and greets representatives from 80 participant countries. The exhibition’s director, Hacer Aydın, is behind this success and calls EMITT “her baby growing up in her arms.” 

Aydın said they have invited 480 tour operators to the fair this year and said it would serve as an important platform to overcome the crisis. The tourism sector is hopeful for 2017 and they expect a significant increase in the number of incoming tourists from Russia, Ukraine and the Netherlands. Russia is seen as a lifesaver for Turkey’s tourism.  

Early bookings in Turkish hotels show serious demand from Russian tourists. According to the head of Professional Hotel Managers Association, Hakan Duran, early bookings for holidays in 2017 from Russia were twice as much as the demands in 2015. Duran believes that 3 million tourists may come from Russia in 2017. 

In 2015, there were 3.6 million incoming tourists from Russia. After a diplomatic crisis between the two countries over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in late 2015, the number of Russian tourists in the first 11 months of 2016 declined to 822,000, compared to 4.4 million in 2014. 

The number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey is closely related to the country’s economic situation. Before the jet crisis, while Russia was in an economic bottleneck due to sanctions and the fall in oil prices, Putin had asked vacationers to travel domestically and encouraged them to travel to Sochi for their vacations.  

Today, there is a different wind because oil prices have increased, Russian stock and bond markets have increased 50 percent, and with the expectation of the Donald Trump administration to ease sanctions on Russia, the country stands at a better place.  

This was visible at the Davos World Economic Forum too. One of the most optimistic members of the Russian delegation attending Davos was its Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

In one of the panels where Shuvalov also participated, Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund, said Trump’s election was a good opportunity for Russia. According to Dmitriev, there are professionals in the new U.S. President’s team who know Russia very well. 

Hakan Ateş, the CEO of Denizbank, a Turkish bank in which Russian Sberbank invested $6 billion, has said that a détente in U.S. - Russia relations would serve Turkey very well.

January/31/2017

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