ANTALYA: With its shimmering azure waters, secluded coves and golden sands, Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is a destination beloved by Russian tourists, nearly 5 million of whom visited last year.
But many visitors currently on holiday in the area now fear they will be unable to return home because of extensive Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Restrictions on card payments and flight operations have also raised fears of a slump in Russian tourism to Turkey, a key source of revenues for Ankara.
Holidaymaker Margarita Sabatnikaya, 31, says her vacation plans have been thrown into doubt and that she fears being stranded.
“We have come here for a holiday with our children. It’s unclear when we’ll return to Russia, by which plane,” she said.
Sabatnikaya said that she wanted to continue her holiday but her bank cards had stopped working.
“It’s unclear how to stay here and how to survive,” she said.
While flag carrier Turkish Airlines says flights to and from Russia will “continue for the moment,” no-frills carrier Pegasus has suspended its services leaving its customers desperate to rebook elsewhere.
Dozens of Western countries have banned Russian planes from their airspace while some carriers operating flights to Russia have had their insurance policies canceled.
Some Turkish holiday operators have cited the impact of Western sanctions when canceling the plans of their Russian clients.
US card giants MasterCard and Visa have suspended their Russian operations, although Russian cardholders in Turkey can access their funds through Russia’s homegrown payments system Mir.
“We heard the company that brought us here stopped flights but I am not sure,” said Russian tourist Anton Gavrilov, 34.
“Of course, I had a little bit of cash but if I’d like to pay with my card I don’t know if it will be possible for me,” he added having swapped the icy Moscow winter for Turkey’s sun-kissed Mediterranean coast.
The damage wrought on Turkey’s crucial travel industry will depend on how long sanctions on Russia are enforced for, industry experts say.
But there is a chance that Russians fleeing their homeland could offset some of the losses, they say.