Who Suffers Most From Russian Tourism Sanctions Against Turkey? (2023)

On April 12, Russia announced it was suspending all but two weekly flights to Turkey, ostensibly in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey. Russian public health chief Anna Popova explained the decision by saying that 80 percent of COVID-19 cases among Russians returning from abroad came from Turkey.

Speculation began immediately, however, that the reasons for the ban were political, rather than related to public health. The ban was announced just two days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Turkey and held a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as part of the Turkey-Ukraine High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. During a joint press conference with Zelenskiy on April 10, Erdoğan expressed Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including over Crimea, which Russia claims to have annexed. This high-level meeting came at a moment when Russia was escalating tensions in Ukraine by moving troops to their shared border and into Crimea. The Kremlin denied any link between the flight ban and Zelenskiy’s visit to Turkey, but other Russian politicians have called on patriotic Russians to avoid travel to Turkey due its support for Ukraine. For his part, Zelenskiy has encouraged Ukrainians to visit Turkey to show their support for Turkey in the face of the Russian flight ban.

While continuing to cooperate strategically with Russia on a variety of issues, Turkey has provided more than just rhetorical support to Ukraine. Ankara has already delivered six of twelve Bayraktar-TB2 armed drones ordered by Ukraine in 2019. Similar Turkish-provided drones were reportedly vital to Azerbaijan’s battlefield successes in Nagorno-Karabakh last year. Turkey and Ukraine have also concluded a deal to transfer patrol boats, and the talks this week in Istanbul reportedly included further potential arms deals. This prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to warn Turkey and others “not to encourage [Ukraine’s] militaristic ambitions.”

(Video) Turkey's tourism industry struggles as Russian visitors face sanctions

Joanna Pritchett

Joanna Pritchett was a visiting scholar and detailee from the Department of State.

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(Video) Ukrainian refugees confront Russian tourists in Turkey | DW News

The flight ban will last from April 15 to June 1, a period that coincides with a prime travel season for Russian citizens. The Russian Association of Tour Operators said April 13 that the ban would lead to 533,200 canceled tour bookings, at an estimated loss of over $420 million. Canceled trips are now common in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. But this decision is a reminder of the Kremlin’s similar decision to ban Russian tourism to Turkey as part of a broader package of measures imposed on Ankara, including a ban on agricultural exports, after the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet on Turkey’s southern border in November 2015. A review of the effects of that travel ban is instructive for whether sanctioning tourism is a useful tool for foreign policy.

Did the Last Travel Ban Work?

Turkey was the top foreign destination for Russian tourists before the 2015 fighter jet crisis (and reclaimed this status after the sanctions ended in late 2016), due to its proximity to Russia, warm climate, and relative cost-effectiveness compared to other beach resort destinations. In 2014, mainly middle-class Russians spent over $6.6 billion on travel services in Turkey, which can be calculated as representing almost 1 percent of Turkey’s entire annual GDP (see figure 1). Assuming a similar level of travel would have occurred in 2016 without the sanctions, Turkey lost over $5.8 billion in revenue from Russian tourism as a result of the travel sanctions, or about 20 percent of Turkey’s expected total income from tourism exports.

By the end of 2019, income from Russian tourism to Turkey had still not recovered to pre-crisis levels. Then the pandemic further reduced travel between the two countries, as it did globally. The 2015 travel sanctions, therefore, had a deep, harmful, and lasting impact on the Turkish economy, as Russia intended. After months of losses from the sanctions, Erdoğan eventually apologized to Russia for the jet incident, making the travel ban a win for the Kremlin.

(Video) When Ukrainian refugees meet Russian tourists in Turkey | Focus on Europe

Who Suffers Most From Russian Tourism Sanctions Against Turkey? (1)

These sanctions, however, were not cost-free to the Russian side. Russian tour operators also earn money arranging the package vacations most Russians use for foreign travel. There was also a less tangible cost. Approximately 3 million Russians who would have enjoyed a vacation in Turkey in 2016 appear to have lost the opportunity for any foreign holiday that year, as data shows the lost revenues from Turkey were not transferred to other popular Mediterranean or European destinations (see figure 2). The Russian government encouraged these people to travel to illegally annexed Crimea instead, but there is no reliable data on how many Russians chose this option, and Crimea did not have the infrastructure to absorb millions of new visitors. Therefore, the revenue Turkey lost due to the sanctions also represents money Russians wanted to spend on a vacation but were prevented from doing so, a lost opportunity for those Russian citizens.

Who Suffers Most From Russian Tourism Sanctions Against Turkey? (2)

(Video) Thousands of Ukrainians trapped in Turkey following Russia's invasion of Ukraine - BBC News

A generic country looking to change the policy of a neighbor through sanctions would weigh the potential benefits of the desired policy change against the costs to its people of imposing sanctions. An ideal sanctions program should inflict real harm on the policy decisionmakers of the target country but do only limited harm to a small number of people in the country imposing them. Trade-related sanctions on goods and services enjoyed by a wide swath of citizens in the imposing country—such as an embargo on foreign foods that a country’s own citizens enjoy, or a ban on tourism to the favorite travel destination of a country’s own citizens—seem like a poor choice.

Russia’s Limited Options

But Russia has few other levers in its economic policy toolkit in the Mediterranean region. Russia is poorer than the European countries around the Mediterranean. It is not a major financial hub, its currency is not widely used for international transactions, and its direct investment levels in these countries are relatively low. Energy remains a valuable tool for Russia, of course, but wielding it as such has long-term consequences for the energy use decisions of Russia’s major customers in Europe. Information operations, malign cyber activities, and corruption are other economic-related tools Russia has been accused of using around the world, but these require long-term planning and generally take time to execute. All of these considerations leave trade-related sanctions as Moscow’s most flexible tool for responding quickly to developing political situations.

But does a travel ban on Turkey in 2021 look the same for Russia as it did in 2016? In 2016, Russians had other choices of foreign holiday destinations, even if the data shows most Russians did not choose to take them. But with many countries going back into pandemic lockdowns, and with ongoing travel restrictions still in place around the world, Russians do not have the same choices they had five years ago. This may be one reason Russia announced the resumption of flights to Egyptian resort towns on the Red Sea on April 23, after a five-year hiatus related to security concerns. Meanwhile, yet another disruption in tourism may not seem to be as big a cost to Turkish leaders in 2021 as it did in 2016, given the immense turbulence the industry has seen over the past year.

(Video) Holiday Hotspot for Russians and Ukranians: Tourism in Turkey affected by the War in Ukraine

Another hit to Turkey’s battered tourism industry seems unlikely to prompt a redirection of Ankara’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Given its own struggles with Kurdish separatists, Turkey has a strong strategic interest in the concept that foreign and foreign-supported rebels cannot break off a region of a country. It also has a long history of involvement in Crimea, due to the indigenous population of ethnically Turkic Tatars, whose rights have suffered under the Russian occupation. These factors make it unlikely Turkey would ever support Russian authority over the peninsula. All in all, if Russia’s ban on flights to Turkey was meant to change Turkish policy, it seems misdirected at best and likely to cause an equal amount of harm to its own citizens.

The author is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. government.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

(Video) 'Russian tourists entering Europe pose security threat' - Estonia's PM


How many Russian tourists are in Turkey? ›

The Mediterranean country's economy relies heavily on foreign visitors, with 2.2 million Russian tourists entering the country in the first seven months of 2022.

How has sanctions affected Russia? ›

Sanctioned Russian oligarchs and financial institutions have been forced to divest from long-held assets outside Russia. Moreover, sanctions have prompted banks in several countries to curtail ties with the Russian financial sector.

Why are there so many Russians in Turkey? ›

It's a longtime Russian tourist destination that's now becoming a refuge for those who don't want to fight in the war. Anti-war Russians began moving here in March, shortly after their country's invasion of Ukraine. The current influx is larger and known as "the second wave" among the local Russian community.

Are Russians still visiting Turkey? ›

Finally, the Russian tourist flow is also growing. Thus, the number of Russian arrivals to Turkey in June 2022 amounted to 602,015. Yes, this is still 41.9% less than in June 2019, but in May 2022 the gap with May 2019 was much larger – minus 62%, and in June it is decreasing with an increase in the number of flights.

Who travels to Turkey the most? ›

Year-to-date, Germans were the top source market with 2.99 million visitors, followed by 2.2 million Russians and 1.8 million Britons. Turkey's total foreign visitors were up by 128% on the year to 23.03 million, still a tad below 2019's 24.7 million.

Which countries are sanctioning Russia? ›

International sanctions have been imposed against Russia and Crimea during the Russo-Ukrainian War by a large number of countries, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, and international organisations following the Russian annexation of Crimea, which began in late February 2014.

How is Russia's economy doing now 2022? ›

Russia's GDP growth (year-on-year)

The chart shows that, in 2022, Russian GDP will drop by 5.5% according to the OECD, by 6% according to the IMF and by 8.9% according to the World Bank.

How many countries have imposed sanctions on Russia? ›

More than 30 countries have imposed sanctions against Russia, cutting energy imports, blocking financial transactions and halting shipments of key imports, such as semiconductors and other electronics.

Does Turkey have good relations with Russia? ›

As a close partner of both Russia and Ukraine, Turkey is actively attempting to broker a peaceful solution to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has hosted a number of high-profile negotiations between the two countries.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey because of Ukraine? ›

The answers to the questions “Is it safe to travel to Turkey because of the Ukraine war?, Is it safe to travel to Turkey with the war between Russia and Ukraine?” or "is it safe to travel to turkey because of ukraine 2022" elses' are still the same: YES.

Which country has the most Russian immigrants? ›

CountryEthnic Russians
United States3,100,000
26 more rows

Is it safe to travel to Turkey now due to war? ›

The risk of violence and acts of war is high along the borders with Syria and Iraq. Threats include rocket attacks, terrorist attacks and kidnapping. If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to these areas, seek professional security advice. Protests often happen in major cities and can turn violent.

Is Turkey safe to visit? ›

Exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Where do most Russian tourists go 2022? ›

Number of outbound tourists from Russia 2022, by country

In the first nine months of 2022, Turkey was the most popular outbound destination of Russians travelling with tourism purposes. Nearly 3.4 million tourists from Russia visited Turkey over that period.

What is the most tourist country in the world? ›

France. Welcoming more than 89 million visitors per year, France is the most visited country in the world. Little wonder, owing to the eternal pull of the cosmopolitan capital of Paris.

Which country has the largest Turkish population? ›

Top 20 Countries Where Most Turks Live In The World 2020
  1. 1 - GERMANY. Top of the list is Germany.
  2. 2 - FRANCE. Second on the list is France. ...
  3. 3 - NETHERLANDS. The Netherlands, known for its cheerful capital Amsterdam, has a quiet, benevolent and Happy public. ...
  4. 4 - ENGLAND. ...
  5. 5 - USA. ...
  6. 6 - AUSTRIA. ...
  7. 7 - BELGIUM. ...
  8. 8 - AUSTRALIA. ...

Who is Turkey's greatest ally? ›

Since the Cold War, Turkey's most important ally has been the United States, which shared Turkey's interest in containing Soviet expansion.

Why do so many people leave Turkey? ›

Turkey became a country of immigration again beginning in the 1980s. The new crisis in the Middle East (specifically Syria) created the refugee situation. The most important factors are (1) armed conflict, (2) ethnic intolerance, (3) religious fundamentalism, and (4) political tensions.

Why do so many tourists go to Turkey? ›

The combination of breathtaking natural beauty, historic and cultural sites, along with great food, makes Turkey one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Is Apple sanctioning Russia? ›

Officially: Apple will not leave Russians without an iPhone. Unofficially: the same smartphones, though 'gray', had been sold long before the sanctions. On March 2, 2022, Apple, among others, officially announced the suspension of sales in Russia.

What are the 4 types of sanctions? ›

  • 1.1 Reasons for sanctioning.
  • 1.2 Economic sanctions.
  • 1.3 Diplomatic sanctions.
  • 1.4 Military sanctions.
  • 1.5 Sport sanctions.
  • 1.6 Sanctions on the environment.
  • 1.7 Sanctions on individuals.

What companies have pulled out of Russia? ›

McKinsey & Company said it would not take on any new work in Russia, would stop work for state-owned entities and “will no longer serve any government entity in Russia.” The Big Four accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC — are pulling out of the country.

How does Russia's economy rank in the world? ›

Russia's foreign exchange reserves are the world's fifth-largest. It has a labour force of roughly 70 million people, which is the world's sixth-largest.
Economy of Russia.
GDP$2.133 trillion (nominal, 2022 est.) $4.650 trillion (PPP, 2022 est.)
GDP rank9th (nominal, 2022) 6th (PPP, 2022)
38 more rows

Does the United States still trade with Russia? ›

In 2021, 0.4% of the total U.S. exports were shipped to Russia while 1.0% of total U.S. Imports were delivered from Russia. In 2021, of the $6.4 billion in U.S. exports to Russia: • 7.4% were subject to a BIS license requirement.

How many Russians have left Russia? ›

An upper estimate is for 700,000 Russians to have fled conscription since it was announced. Many went to Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Georgia, and Finland.

What countries are sanctioned by Russia in 2022? ›

After Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, two countries that had not previously taken part in sanctions, namely South Korea and non-UN member state Taiwan, engaged in sanctions against Russia.

Can Russian citizens travel to USA now? ›

Russian citizens who wish to travel to the US for business or tourism purposes must apply for a US B1/B2 Visa. While the application process cannot be 100% online, iVisa can help you obtain the confirmation page you are required to have for your interview at the embassy, and they can do that offline or online.

What do sanctions do? ›

Economic sanctions can be used for achieving domestic and international purposes. The efficacy of sanctions is debatable—there are many failures—and sanctions can have unintended consequences. Economic sanctions may include various forms of trade barriers, tariffs, and restrictions on financial transactions.

Is Turkey an ally of Ukraine? ›

Türkiye recognized Ukraine's independence on 16 December 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 3 February 1992. Relations between Türkiye and Ukraine gained the status of strategic partnership, with the establishment of High Level Strategic Council (HLSC) in 2011.

Is Turkey still in NATO? ›

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, has its second largest army and is the host of the Allied Land Command headquarters. The Incirlik and Konya Airbases have both been involved in several NATO military operations since their establishment. The current Ambassador to NATO is Basat Öztürk.

What does Russia import from Turkey? ›

Russia Imports from TurkeyValueYear
Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers$194.14M2021
Ships, boats, and other floating structures$189.53M2021
Oil seed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruits$104.35M2021
93 more rows

Is it safe to travel to Turkey right now 2022? ›

But yes, Turkey is relatively safe and open for tourism. However it should be noted that Turkey is currently (March 2022) enduring high numbers of Covid cases as the omicron variant continues to spread around the country.

Is Turkey safe for tourists 2022? ›

What is this? Turkey is relatively safe to visit, but you do need to keep your wits about you when you go. Usually, tourists don't have to deal with too much violent crime, especially in more popular tourist areas, but you might run into pickpocketers.

Are holidays in Turkey safe 2022? ›

OVERALL RISK : HIGH. Turkey is safe to visit if you avoid some parts of it - namely those near the border with Syria. You should be aware that tourist hotspots, restaurants, shops, and public transportation are places where most thefts and pickpocketing occur, and that violent crime exists here, too.

Where do most Russians live in USA? ›

New York leads the nation in the number of Russian Americans. About 1.6 Million reside in New York Tri-State area. About 600,000 reside in the City of New York representing 8% of the population. Numbers exceed those of other leading ethnic groups like Chinese (760,000) and Dominican (620,000).

Which European country has the most Russians? ›

The number of people with a Russian citizenship in European countries as of the first of January, 2021 was by far the highest in Germany. The countries population includes a total of over 235 thousand Russian citizens.

Where is the safest holiday in Turkey? ›

Which areas in Turkey are safest for families? Families hoping for a classic poolside holiday with a killer beach view visit areas in the provinces of Dalaman, Antalya, Feyithe and Bodrum - all generally considered to be safe.

Is Turkey strong in war? ›

For 2022, Turkey is ranked 13 of 142 out of the countries considered for the annual GFP review. It holds a PwrIndx* score of 0.1961 (a score of 0.0000 is considered 'perfect').

How Safe Is Istanbul 2022? ›

Besides the threat of terrorism, Istanbul is considered relatively safe for tourists and locals. Istanbul is even considered moderately safe for solo travelers and female travelers. However, visitors should remain cautious as many tourists are often caught in scams, frauds, or pickpocketing schemes.

What should I be careful of in Turkey? ›

14 Things Not To Do In Turkey
  • Don't Wear Shoes In Worship Places.
  • Do Not Forget Table Etiquette.
  • Avoid Obscuring A Praying Person's View.
  • Do Not Disrespect Ramadan Customs.
  • Do Not Board A Cab Without A Taxi Logo.
  • Do Not Wear Revealing Clothes.
  • Do Not Misuse The Turkish Language.
  • Avoid Leaving Food On Your Plate.
27 Nov 2021

Is Turkey friendly to foreigners? ›

Turkish people are very friendly and hospitable. In most tourist hotspots you will find the locals who staff shops and restaurants are multilingual – they speak English, German, French, and Russian and don't think much of it.

What is the nickname of Turkey? ›

With such a large landmass, Turkey enjoys a variety of climates, earning the country the nickname 'the land of four seasons'.

Are there still Russian tourists in Turkey? ›

Thousands of Russians continue to arrive in Turkey, fleeing conscription Antalya is a longtime Russian tourist destination that's become a refuge for those who don't want to fight in the war.

Can Russian citizen travel to Turkey now? ›

Countries Exempt from Turkish Visa

Check these lists given below, to see if your country belongs to any. Nationals of the Russian Federation can enter Turkey visa-free as well, and stay here for up to 90 days within half a year, without exceeding the maximum of 60 days per visit.

Are Russians still visiting Cyprus? ›

In 2019, Russian and Ukrainian tourists accounted for a fifth of all tourists to the island nation. In 2022, the number of arrivals is close to zero.

How many Russians visit Turkey each year? ›

Around 741,000 people from the Russian Federation came to Turkey in July of 2022, compared to roughly 807,000 in July of last year. The number of visitors from Russia to Turkey is still up overall in 2022: 2.2 million from January-July 2022 compared to 1.6 million from January-July 2021, per the ministry's data.

Which country Russians travel the most? ›

Number of outbound tourists from Russia 2022, by country

In the first nine months of 2022, Turkey was the most popular outbound destination of Russians travelling with tourism purposes. Nearly 3.4 million tourists from Russia visited Turkey over that period.

Where do Russian travel the most? ›

Turkey remains a hugely popular tourist destination for wealthy Russians, confirmed Artur Muradian of Space Travel. The same goes for the Maldives. And while direct flights from Russia into the European Union have been suspended, Russians have nevertheless streamed into the bloc.

Can Russian citizens enter Turkey? ›

Check these lists given below, to see if your country belongs to any. Nationals of the Russian Federation can enter Turkey visa-free as well, and stay here for up to 90 days within half a year, without exceeding the maximum of 60 days per visit.

Does Russia have good relations with Turkey? ›

Economic and trade relations constitute the driving force behind Turkish-Russian relations. Russia, has been one of the most important trade partners of Türkiye. Trade volume between two states has reached 26,309 billion USD in 2019, with Türkiye's 3,854 billion USD worth of exports and 22,454 billion USD imports.

Is Turkey in NATO? ›

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, has its second largest army and is the host of the Allied Land Command headquarters. The Incirlik and Konya Airbases have both been involved in several NATO military operations since their establishment. The current Ambassador to NATO is Basat Öztürk.

What 3 countries does Russia import from the most? ›

This is a list of the largest trading partners of Russia based on data from The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC).
List of the largest trading partners of Russia.
RankCountryImport (2017)
1.China (economy, trading partners)43.8
2.Germany (economy, trading partners)27.3
3.Belarus (economy, trading partners)12.5
8 more rows

Where do Russians go on holiday in Turkey? ›

Particularly popular among tourists from Russia are resort towns in and around the province of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.

Which US state has the most Russian? ›

New York leads the nation in the number of Russian Americans. About 1.6 Million reside in New York Tri-State area. About 600,000 reside in the City of New York representing 8% of the population. Numbers exceed those of other leading ethnic groups like Chinese (760,000) and Dominican (620,000).

Is Russia friendly to tourists? ›

In general, Russia is a safe country, especially if you're traveling as a tourist to large cities (such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, etc.) or if you are making the Trans-Siberian route. However, there are a number of risk areas in Russia, which is advisable not to travel to: The border with Ukraine.

How long can a Russian citizen stay in Turkey without a visa? ›

Russian Federation: Ordinary passport holders are exempted from visa for their touristic and business travels up to 60 days. Service passport holders are exempted from visa up to 30 days on condition that not to exceed 90 days within any 180 days period.

Which countries can go to Turkey without visa? ›

On the other hand, Turkey grants visa-free access to citizens of other countries and territories – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia and Uzbekistan.


1. 'Russian tourists entering Europe pose security threat' - Estonia's PM
(Sky News)
2. Russian tourists without cash stranded in Bali as sanctions over Ukraine invasion bite
(South China Morning Post)
3. Rich Russians pile into Turkey, Dubai property
4. Should the West be nervous about Turkey's close ties with Russia? | Inside Story
(Al Jazeera English)
5. Russian tourism hit by ban on Turkey holidays
6. Ukraine war dashes hopes of Turkish tourism recovery
(AP Archive)
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