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Russia-Turkey Tensions to Take Toll on Tourism

russian_passportsAll Russian citizens are being summoned to return home as the country’s parliament examines the possibility of suspending all air traffic to Turkey, after a Russian bomber was downed by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet near the Turkish-Syrian border on Tuesday.

Senator Nikolai Levichev is calling on the Federal Air Transport Agency to immediately stop all flights to Turkey due to the increased risk of terrorist attacks on Russian aircraft.

“I am asking you to consider the possibility of an immediate ban on all air traffic between Russia and Turkey that would last until exhaustive measures are taken to eliminate any possible sources of terrorist threats in Turkish airports,” Mr Levichev said in a letter to the head of the agency, Aleksandr Neradko.

According to Russian daily Pravda citing the country’s national news agency RIA Novosti, Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs, said “It is not safe for Russian tourists to stay in the country that shoots down Russian planes.”

“Air communication with Turkey must be suspended until the relations with Turkey are normalized.”

At the same time, Russian tour operators and travel agencies are putting all trips to Turkey on hold until further notice. Turkey is one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists with some 4.5 million having visited the country last year.

Indicatively, one of Russia’s largest travel agencies, Natalie Tours, decided on Wednesday, to suspend the sale of package tours to Turkish destinations citing security concerns and “an unstable political situation”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose Wednesday visit to Turkey was cancelled, has suggested Russian citizens avoid traveling to the country due to the growing threat of terrorism.

“Manifestations of terrorism have been accumulating on Turkish territory. According to our estimates, the terrorist threat in Turkey is just as big as it is in Egypt. In this regard, we do not recommend our citizens visit the Turkish Republic for tourism or any other purposes at this stage,” Mr Lavrov said.

In the meantime, the Turkish Hoteliers’ Association (TUROB) expressed its concerns in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the cancelation of major conferences, including an upcoming medical event that would have been attended by 12,000 people, Turkish daily Zaman reports.

“Just due to this event alone, we are facing [TL] 40 million in losses, as well as a hit to our prestige. The wave of political events that have swept through our country and region have negatively impacted tourism demand,” TUROB said.

The conference, scheduled to take place in April 2016 in Istanbul, will now be held in Amsterdam.

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