Spotlight: Turkey's tourism sector on fast recovery road after bleak period

Source: Xinhua| 2018-04-20 19:43:22|Editor: Yurou
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ANKARA, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's tourism sector is heading for a fast recovery in 2018, as early booking figures and demand from abroad suggest that the country could close this year with record 40 million tourists and over 30 billion U.S. dollars in tourism revenue.

"We have managed to overcome unfavorable odds and we are very hopeful this year," said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an international meeting of investors in Istanbul.

Erdogan indicated that the adverse effects of a failed military coup in July 2016 have now been cleared off in Turkey.

Turkey welcomed 3 million foreign visitors in the first two months of 2018 during its winter period, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. "Demands from Germany and Russia, Turkey's main tourism markets, are very positive," said a statement.

The Turkish Travel Agencies Association announced optimistically that as a result of a favorable demand from abroad this year, the sector expects to see 40 million tourists, an all-time high.

Turkey hosted 36.8 million foreigners in 2014 and 36.3 million in 2015, but the figure decreased sharply to 25.3 million in 2016 then rose again to 32.4 million last year, according to Turkish Statistical Institute's data.

Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Huseyin Yayman said Turkey had entered a period of stagnation in the tourism sector after the botched coup in 2016, but the sector improved in 2017. "Turkey's 2018 target is 40 million foreign tourists," Yayman said.

Last week, Hotel Association of Turkey Chairman Timur Bayindir said Turkey expects to see an increase of 20 percent in the number of Russian tourists coming to the country in 2018. According to the German tourism operator TUI, early bookings by Russians for the summer season in Turkey rose by 150 percent.

Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that Turkey's 2023 targets, the centennial of the Turkish Republic, for the tourism sector are 50 million tourists and 50 billion dollars, which are rather ambitious.

"Turkey left behind two years of setback in the tourism sector between 2015 and 2016, which were negatively affected by the crisis between Turkey and Russia after the downing of a Russian fighter jet, the failed July 15 attempt, and terrorist attacks targeting Turkey's touristic regions," said the minister to professionals.

Kurtulmus noted that the number of German tourists was expected to increase between 50 and 100 percent this summer. "Around 5 million German tourists will visit Turkey this year," he said.

The number of Russians tourists is expected to be around 6 million this season, and booking data was quite high since last winter.

Germany and Russia are the most important countries for the Turkish tourism from which Turkey receives the most tourists each year, especially for the resorts located on the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean.

However, data showed a sharp decline in spending by Russian and European tourists compared with previous years mainly because Turkish tour operators are offering bargain deals and packages. The decline of the Turkish Lira against the euro and the U.S. dollar in recent months is another reason.

Diversity in tourism is an important goal of Turkish governmental authorities, offering alternative traveling routes and destinations.

Health tourism is also on the rise in the last decade in Turkey, where some treatment, such as eye and heart surgeries, cancer treatments and hair transplants, can be obtained more quickly and often at less expense.

Turkey is ranked fourth in the global list for healthcare tourism in terms of the number of patients it serves, and third in revenues from healthcare tourism. In 2017, Turkey saw 750,000 such tourists, generating some 1.7 billion dollars.

Several government schemes have also been put into motion such as the "Year of Troy" to commemorate the ancient site in northwestern Turkey, detailed in Homer's epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

There are a slew of events planned to promote the site located in the Canakkale Province where also a museum has been constructed.

Also China, of which political, economic and cultural ties with Turkey have enhanced considerably, has declared 2018 "Year of Turkey," encouraging its citizens to visit Turkey.

Kurtulmus paid a visit to Beijing this week to discuss events programmed in the context, and stated that "China will become one of Turkey's biggest partners in tourism" and Turkey expects 500,000 Chinese tourists this year.

He added that Turkish Airlines has also made arrangements in order to increase flights between Turkey and China.

Besides the sea and beach, Turkey offers several other vacation destinations, such as the central Capadocia region with it's fairy chimneys, colorful values, and ancient churches carved from rock. Capadocia is well known around the world as one of the best places to fly with hot air balloons.

"This season is more promising than the two previous years, but we still haven't managed to reach levels of 2014," a tourism professional Serkan Sonmez said.