Antalya in Turkey becomes an expatriate paradise in the midst of a pandemic

Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya, a tourism hub, also hosts a considerable number of expatriates who have chosen it as their new home. The number of foreigners settled in the province rose to 136,946 last year from 94,294 in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is said to have drawn more to the province known for its beautiful beaches and warm climate. Antalya is already attracting more people, like other holiday resorts in the Mediterranean, during the pandemic which has pushed people to places away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The province is home to foreigners from more than 90 countries. Some arrive for a short vacation before deciding to settle there permanently, while others are in the province for business and study. The population, which reached more than 2.6 million last year, has further swelled with expatriates, especially Russians. Russian nationals make up the majority of expatriates, just as they make up the majority of tourists visiting the province. Antalya hosts nearly 30,000 Russian nationals, ahead of 18,214 Kazakh nationals. Iranian, German and Kyrgyz nationals are the other largest groups.

The majority of expatriates reside in Alanya where they represent approximately 10% of the population. Alanya is a popular destination thanks to its pristine beaches. Antalya also follows Istanbul in terms of property sales to foreigners.

Irina Balcı, who chairs the Russian Association of Arts and Culture in the province, is among the expats who have settled in Antalya. Balcı moved to Antalya 16 years ago with her husband and says she loved the place because of its “climate, sea and nature”.

“Antalya has become more attractive to Russians during the pandemic. The weather and the sea are always warm and you can go out anytime. You also have access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday. Along with tourism, Antalya is also a fruit and vegetable hub of Turkey, leading in exports.

Balcı says they do not feel “foreign” in Antalya where they had good relations with their Turkish neighbors. “In addition, we have many Ukrainian and Kazakh citizens. It’s like the former Soviet Union. We have a lot of Russian speakers here. There might be tensions between these people elsewhere but here the Russians, Ukrainians and Kazakhs have good relations,” she said.

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Sharon P. Juarez