Tourism revenues nearly triple as foreign arrivals in Turkey shot up

Turkey’s tourism revenues nearly tripled in the second quarter while first-half foreign visitor numbers surged close to 2019 levels, data showed, recovering from a coronavirus-driven fallout. Revenues surged 190% from a year earlier to $8.72 billion in the April-June period, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data showed.

In June, the number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey leaped 145% from a year earlier to more than 5 million, with first-half numbers hitting 16.37 million, up 186% from a year ago, the Culture and Tourism Ministry said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was expected to impact the arrivals from Turkey’s top tourist sources, just as the sector recovered from the outbreak.

Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said Turkey aimed for $37 billion in tourism revenues and 47 million tourists this year, raising its targets from $35 billion and 45 million.

The data showed some 83.8% of income in the second quarter was obtained from foreign visitors and 16.2% from Turkish citizens residing abroad. In 2021, tourism revenues doubled to almost $25 billion, recovering from the worst of the COVID-19 impact, but remaining well below the level recorded in 2019.

Following the lifting of tight restrictions at the height of the pandemic, the rebound has been vital for the country’s crucial industry as the government aims for a current account surplus.

Germans top list

The data showed that Germans made up the largest chunk of foreign visitors in January-June with over 2 million arrivals, nearly fourfold compared to a year ago.

Russians followed with 1.5 million, Britons with 1.3 million, and Bulgarians with 1.2 million in the first six months.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city by population and a top tourist draw, welcomed 41.3% of all foreign visitors, or 6.8 million, in the first half.

The famed Turkish resort city of Antalya ranked second with 24.7% or more than 4 million tourists. Edirne in northwestern Turkey, bordering both Bulgaria and Greece, followed with a 10.7% share or 1.8 million visitors.

The number of foreign visitors soared 94.1% to 24.71 million last year when COVID-19 measures were eased compared to 2020.

Russians and Ukrainians were the country’s first and third biggest sources of visitors, respectively, in 2021. Russians accounted for 19% of foreign visitors, with 4.7 million people, while Ukraine was the third-largest at 8.3%, with 2.1 million people.

Officials had hoped tourism this year could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019, when some 52 million visitors – including about 7 million Russians and 1.6 million Ukrainians – brought in $34 billion in revenue.

Domestic tourism

Yet, data points to a more subdued trend among domestic tourists amid soaring inflation that runs at a 24-year high of nearly 79%.

Official data showed that domestic tourist trips with overnight stays rose just 6.1% to 8.8 million in the first quarter, with inflation doubling trip costs. Last year the number of such trips jumped 23.2%.

In the Mediterranean resort area of Marmaris, hotel manager Fahri Tan said rising costs hurt both guests and operators, whose costs surged 150%-200%.

“Domestic tourists have become unable to bear the total holiday expenditure burden due to the sharp increases in transportation and other expenditures,” said Tan, manager of the Fi Light Solto Boutique Beach Hotel in Selimiye, near Marmaris.

As a result, many are trying to spend less.

“We would normally stay at a hotel, but due to high prices, we rented a house from Airbnb,” said marketing expert Özge Özkan.