Istanbul is playing host to a leading international tourism fair, the East Mediterranean International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (EMITT).
The 20th iteration of the tourism fair, considered the world’s fifth biggest according to its website, started Thursday and will run until the end of the month.
The EMITT will host over 4,500 companies servicing 70 destinations from all around the world.
Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mahir Unal emphasized the importance of the fair, saying that tourism is unique in the magnitude of its healing effect on international relations.
He told reporters Thursday that Turkey was taking measures against any potential decrease in the number of Russian tourists visiting the country after the downing of a Russian jet last November soured Ankara-Moscow ties.
Unal pointed at EXPO 2016, to be hosted in Antalya where the G20 conference was held last year, as an opportunity.
"You know EXPO 2016 is bigger and more effective organization than the Olympics. We have a possibility to compensate for a potential decrease in the number of Russian tourists through EXPO 2016," Unal told reporters after the opening ceremony of the EMITT.
EXPO 2016 is set to open on April 23.
Also called world fair or exposition, EXPO is a large and universal public exhibition held in various parts of the world. EXPO 2015 opened in May in the Italian city of Milan.
Unal also said tourism should not be used for sanctions in bilateral ties.
Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey, including the suspension of visa-free travel at the beginning of 2016.
The decision came in the wake of Turkish forces downing a Russian fighter that violated Turkish airspace despite repeated warnings on Nov. 24, 2015.
Touching on the Sultanahmet attack that targeted tourists earlier this month, Minister Unal said Istanbul faced some reservation cancellations after it, but the international reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive.
"The world has embraced Istanbul much more [after the attack] to prevent terror from reaching its objectives," he said.
On Jan. 12, a suspected Daesh suicide bomber killed 11 people -- mostly German tourists -- at Istanbul's Sultanahmet district.
The EMITT fair will host operators, travel agencies, hotels, airlines, cruise operators, national tourist boards, transportation services, medical tourism providers and other tourism-related bodies and organizations.