Turkey Pays for Fuel to Attract Tourists

Turkey Pays for Fuel  to Attract TouristsTurkey Pays for Fuel  to Attract Tourists

The Turkish government has planned new incentives for tour operators and airlines, as part of measures to boost tourism income amid problems in neighboring countries, particularly the economic crisis in Russia and the depreciation of the ruble.

The incentives being introduced to address concerns about the drop in early bookings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, unveiling a raft of new measures. “Tourism is one of the leading industries in Turkey, but it has been said that we might face serious problems in tourism this year,” said Davutoğlu, Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reported.

As part of the new measures, Turkey is granting $6,000 to all passenger planes from Russia and Iran for the next two months, starting in February, as a contribution to their fuel spending.

“This will prevent the cancellation of flights,” Davutoğlu said, adding that this would also ease the burden for tour operators.

He added that the operators would also enjoy a generous credit window.

Başaran Ulusoy, the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), said the support would help meet the sector’s expectations in a rocky period.

“Supporting planes means supporting tour operators. This will have a direct effect on consumer prices. We have also told officials that passport-free crossing from these two countries (Russia and Iran) is needed, but of course this is a mutual issue for all the countries,” Ulusoy said.

Hürriyet quoted Mehmet Ersoy, the chairman of tour operator Etstur, as suggesting that Turkey should compensate the costs of fuel for planes arriving from Russia in order not to lose out on this large market. Turkey receives around 4.4 million Russian tourists every year, especially in its sun-soaked southern destinations in the south.

Ersoy said the government’s latest decision was “important,” adding that $6,000 amounts to around half of the fuel costs of a mid-sized plane for two months. “But the fuel issue does not solve everything. The planes and the tour operators should also take responsibility. It is mainly Turkish operators who bring Russian tourists to Turkey. But the financial support will make them totally concentrate on Turkey,” he said.

The crisis in Europe may create opportunities for the Turkish tourism businesses if airlines reflect the fall in oil prices on their ticket fees, Ulusoy had earlier said at a sector event.

These moves by the Turkish government are in line with recent bilateral agreements between the Turkish and Iranian governments to cooperate in the tourism industry, which allows the two countries to exchange rules, regulations, and investment plans in tourism and recreation industry.

The deal will bring together Iran and Turkey in joint efforts to hold international festivals and exhibitions on tourism, promoting the place of the Silk Road, and to coordinate other activities with this objective.

Turkey is the major magnet of international tourism in the region, with more than 1.5 million visitors only from Iran annually. However, income from tourism has fallen $7.67 billion in the last quarter of last year, down 1.3% from the same period in 2013.

 The total number of visitors increased 5.6% from the previous year, to 41 million in 2014, according to the data. Around 86.6% of the people visiting the country were foreigners, while 13.4% were Turkish citizens who reside abroad.

On the other hand the number of Turkish visitors to Iran has only risen a little after the country improved part of tourism infrastructure. Now, 300,000 Turkish tourists visit Iran annually.