Turkey Fails to Convince Russia to Begin Flights in Tourism Blow

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Turkish officials failed to convince Russia to lift a one-and-half month ban on flights between the two countries at the end of May, dealing an early setback for a tourist sector attempting to recover from a year of pandemic restrictions as new cases fall.

Moscow is now expected to allow tourists to travel to Turkey, a popular destination for Russians, from mid-June at the earliest following high-level meetings in Russia’s capital on Monday, according to a senior Turkish official with direct knowledge of the matter.

The two-week delay under the current best-case scenario will take a toll on tourism hot spots, which attracted more visitors from Russia than any other country in 2019. Spending by overseas visitors is a major source of foreign currency for Turkey, helping to finance a current account that has posted 17 straight monthly deficits.

Russia’s expected to send a new delegation to assess measures taken by Turkey to protect airports, hotels and other tourist locations from the coronavirus before deciding on when to lift its bar on air travel, a second Turkish official familiar with the talks said.

The Russian government Tuesday denied a report that the ban had been extended until the end of June. But state airline Aeroflot said it’s canceling all but two flights a week to Turkey through the end of next month, state-run RIA Novosti reported.

The U.K. also suspended flights to Turkey and Ankara reciprocated the move on May 12.

New coronavirus cases in Turkey declined to 10,174 on Monday as a three-week lockdown ended, falling sharply from a record high of 63,082 a month ago.

The government had hoped to attract more than 31 million tourists this year, generating $23.3 billion in revenue.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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