Turkey offers passport and visa exemptions for Russian travellers

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on Monday the lifting of passport restrictions for Russian nationals travelling to Turkey. This represents an important development for the neighbouring country’s tourism industry.

The new regime will be ratified when the Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov will arrive at the city of Antalya on 28 March. The Russian Foreign Minister’s visit will formalise preparations for the High-Level Cooperation Council expected to be held between Ankara and Moscow in April. A follow-up meeting by the Turkish delegation will take place on 8 April in Moscow.

The High-Level Cooperation Council will be attended by the heads and ministers of both governments. The agenda of discussions will revolve around measures to strengthen bilateral cooperation frameworks and cultural ties. Both parties are expected to ratify the 2019-2020 Plan for Consultations.

Abolition of Visa Requirements

In March 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified a decree to abandon visa requirements for several categories of Turkish citizens holding their national passports. The new visa liberalisation schemes apply to citizens with special passports such as members of diplomatic delegations, representatives of the Turkish business community flying to Russia for short-term business trips and transport drivers (lorries, buses) arriving in Russian borders.

Benefits for Turkish Tourism Industry

Monday statements by the Turkish Foreign Minister were welcomed by members of the neighbouring country’s business community. Tourism professionals expect that abolition of visa schemes will increase the number of incoming travellers from Russia to 600.000 more people per annum. This represents roughly a 10% increase in traveller rates.

Russia already retains the leadership position in Turkey’s tourism industry recording 5.96 million travellers for 2018 and representing approximately the 15% of total foreign visitors in the neighbouring country. Statistics from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism reveal that Turkey accommodated more than 39.5 million foreign tourists in 2018, demarking a 21.8% increase on traveller rates from 2017.

Under the best case scenario, visa and passport-free travel schemes may invite more than a million of Russian tourists in Turkish resorts during the summer of 2019, as Tez Tour General Manager Sezgin Ozer argues. Even though this is a highly ambitious target to be met, the Turkish delegate of tourism acknowledges that visa liberalisation programmes will undeniably prolong 2019 summer season in Turkey from April to November.

Notwithstanding these important developments in the neighbouring country, developments which will undeniably undermine growth efforts of the Greek tourism and travel authorities, the country is still expected to enter another record-braking summer season in 2019.

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