Published 17 Sep,2020 via Hürriyet Daily News - Some 225,000 Russian tourists visited the Mediterranean province of Antalya in the first half of September, raising hopes for an extended summer season in the Turkish tourism sector’s heartland.
“In August, a total of 225,000 Russian tourists arrived in Antalya. We have reached the same figure in only 15 days of September,” said Deniz Varol, Fraport TAV Antalya Airport co-general manager.
Nearly half of the passengers landing on the airport come from Russia, he added.
“Probably Russians will constitute some 50 percent of the air traffic in Antalya this year. It’s a significant increase from about 35 percent in recent years,” said Bilgihan Yılmaz, the other co-general manager of the airport.
Turkey is among the very few countries Russians are allowed to fly to, he said, adding, “The packages, offered not only to the Russians, but to all tourists, in Antalya are very tempting. The prices are fair and the quality is very high. The Russian traffic to Antalya, which usually ends in September, can extend the season to October and November.”
Antalya hotels restarted hosting tourists on June 1, when travel bans and restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic were lifted.
With the resumption of flights in August, tourists from Russia, Germany and Britain started arriving in Antalya.
“In this period, Russia has been the country sending the highest number of tourists to Turkey,” said Ülkay Atmaca, head of the Professional Hotel Managers Association of Turkey (POYD).
Bookings of Russian tourists in September and October support the upbeat mood among the hoteliers, he said.
“We think that the [summer tourism] season can extend to November and even December. Because the bookings made so far are very promising,” said Atmaca.
Last year, 7 million Russian tourists visited Turkey and 6 million of them arrived in Antalya. Overall, the Turkish resorts and tourist spots attracted 45 million foreign tourists in 2019.
This year, however, Turkey hosted 5.4 million foreign visitors in the first seven months of 2020, down from 24.7 million in the same period last year, the Culture and Tourism Ministry data showed.
According to the ministry projections, the number of foreign tourists this year can hit 15 million, bringing $11 billion of tourism income.
Revival of Thomas Cook
Iconic British travel firm Thomas Cook on Sept. 16 re-emerged as an online-only company, a year after its collapse that left 150,000 holidaymakers stranded.
In November 2019, Chinese firm Fosun, which also owns package holiday brand Club Med, bought the rights to Thomas Cook’s 179-year-old brand and intellectual property for $14.2 million.
The new Thomas Cook will sell holidays to destinations on Britain’s safe travel corridor list including Turkey, Italy and Greece, the company said in a statement.
Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 and was the world’s oldest travel firm until it went bankrupt in September 2019, some six months before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the travel industry.
The timing of the launch during the pandemic could raise eyebrows. Many airlines and holiday companies have been brought to their knees, including the world’s biggest travel company TUI Group, which has had to rely on German state support.
Thomas Cook’s U.K. CEO Alan French said that launching during the pandemic posed short term challenges but Fosun was taking a long-term view.
“Our new business will combine fantastic U.K.-based customer service with an updated operating model protected by Atol and with the backing of a multi-billion-dollar organization,” he said.
Atol is a British financial protection scheme for holidays, giving customers confidence in their booking.
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