By Yusuf Sahbaz
IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – The Turkish tourism sector is focusing on attracting Russians to the country’s hot springs and medical facilities as part of its push to promote "wellness tourism" in the winter months, a Turkish thermal tourism union chief said Wednesday.
"Our goal is to host 100,000 Russian tourists in the first quarters of 2019 of 2020," Thermal Health and Tourism Association head Yavuz Yilik told Anadolu Agency.
Yilik said 80,000 tourists from Russia came to Turkey for therapeutic purposes in 2018 and that Turkey wanted this figure to reach 100,000 by 2020.
He underlined that his association was in touch with Russian tour operators as Turkey’s medical services and related tourism facilities developed alongside its coastal tourism areas.
Data on Turkey’s tourism sector show that 39.4 million foreign tourists visited Turkey in 2018 with Russians at the top of the list 5.9 million visits.
Turkish tourism firms had previously hosted Russian delegations of tour agencies and doctors visited Turkish spa facilities in capital Ankara and Istanbul as well as the western provinces of Denizli, Mugla and Izmir.
– Russians not aware of promise of Turkish springs
Russian tour operator Galina Tereshchenko praised the quality of Turkey's thermal springs, and said they are better than Europe’s.
Tereshchenko also mentioned that Russians "are not aware of Turkish springs" and mostly prefer Hungary, Slovenia and Czechia.
She said the country’s health sector and springs were attracting attention from across Europe as well.
"In the coming days we predict that many tourists from our country will come to Turkey for medical tourism," Tereshchenko said, adding that Turkey's "excellent" climate was another factor that attract vacation-goers.
She said the fact that Russians enjoy visa-free travel with Turkey also encourages visits to the country.