Ankara and Moscow have agreed to resume flights between the two countries as of Wednesday following three and a half months of suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, in a decision highly sought by the Turkish tourism industry.
“We have agreed to resume flights with Russia as of today,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu said Wednesday.
The world’s sixth-largest tourist destination, Turkey had opened its borders and resumed international flights on July 11 as it gradually eased coronavirus lockdown measures.
As of the date, the country resumed flights with 31 countries and was negotiating with 20 other countries. “With Russia, the number of countries with which flights have restarted has increased to 32,” Karaismailoğlu told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal regions and historical attractions had been waiting eagerly for the borders to reopen as the tourism industry looks to save at least part of the tourist season already battered by the pandemic. Much had depended on the talks with Russia.
Tourism industry representatives have said that with the resumption of flights, they expect the fastest recovery to occur in the Russian market. Hit hard by the pandemic, Russia had fully closed air services with other countries as of March 27.
The number of coronavirus cases in Russia reached 739,947 on Tuesday. Some 512,825 people in the country have recovered, while the death toll stood at 11,614. Together with the U.S., Brazil and India, it is one of the countries hardest hit in the world.
Russian citizens topped the list of foreign tourists and accounted for 15.6% of all arrivals in Turkey in 2019, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry data. Some 7 million Russians visited last year.