Turkey’s tourism industry is feeling the impact of sanctions on Moscow, as Russian tourists face obstacles when traveling to the country.
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.
Niko Valdes, owner of a fish restaurant on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, says his business is one of the places facing challenges this year.
“We have big problems [with their credit cards]. Russians come to the restaurant, they have credit cards… but they don’t work,” said Niko Valdes, the owner of the restaurant.
“I am not satisfied, and my guests are not satisfied either. It is difficult for the Russians.”
As Russian tourists continue to flock to Turkey, the EU is tightening rules against them after the Ukrainian government called on the bloc and G7 countries to impose a visa ban.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry did not respond to Euronews’ requests for comment on whether Ankara should do the same.
Turkey played a unique role in the war, supplying Ukraine with drones while maintaining friendly relations with the Kremlin, especially financial ones.
The near-rising inflation has affected Erdogan’s popularity
For Valdes, Russians make up about half of his business.
“We have a very bad economy, but the arrival of Russian tourists means we can make money, which is good,” he said.
Several yachts owned by Russian oligarchs have reportedly docked in Turkey following Western sanctions against Moscow.
First, a yacht believed to be owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Kamenshchik is anchored off Turkey’s popular southern coast.
The US warned in August that there was a risk of penalties for Turkish companies if they worked with sanctioned Russians.
Ankara dismissed the concerns, saying it would improve trade with its neighbors without opposing sanctions.
Any business Turkey can get is vital to its ailing economy, which is now seeing the official inflation rate rise to more than 80% — a serious strain on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity.
Economist Can Selcuki said tourism revenues are especially important this season as Erdogan faces the toughest elections next year.
“Given the current macroeconomics in Turkey and the ultimate need for any currency exchange in Turkey, I would say Russian tourists are very important,” Selcuki said.