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ANKARA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Turkey’s tourism revenues jumped by nearly a fifth to $26 billion in 2017, boosted by a five-fold surge in the number of Russian tourists, data showed on Wednesday, as improving diplomatic ties with Moscow helped the industry.
Tourism revenues are a major source of financing for Turkey’s wide current account deficit, which ratings agencies have described as “large and persistent”. A 2016 diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Russia - after Turkey shot down a Russian plane over Syria - hit the tourism industry, and the economy, hard, costing an estimated $8 billion in lost revenue.
“There is a 70 percent increase in the number of bookings from foreign travel agencies for this year. We expect a record in numbers in 2018,” Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.
Tourism revenues surged 18.9 percent to $26.28 billion last year, rebounding from a sharp fall a year earlier, the data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed.
The number of Russian visitors rose more than five-fold to 4.72 million people, it showed.
Overall, the number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey rose by 27.84 percent in 2017 to 32.41 million, the data showed.
After Russia, the biggest number of tourists came from Germany and Iran. In December alone, foreign arrivals to Turkey jumped 30.84 percent. (Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)