ANKARA, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's tourism sector is one of the most important pillars for its ailing economy with promising forecasts for 2019 after a remarkable turnaround.
Turkey's tourism industry continued to grow in 2018, as it once again came out on top of Europe for international arrivals growth.
Preliminary results for last year show international arrivals in Turkey up 22.3 percent than the previous year, according to the European Travel Commission (ETC).
Assuming year-to-date growth holds true for 2018 as a whole, arrivals to Turkey in 2018 will exceed 47 million, a new record for the destination in terms of tourist arrivals, which had never before exceeded 40 million, the ETC said in its report.
The data shows that Turkey is well on the path to recovery following the attempted coup in 2016 and several terrorist attacks in major cities.
Tour operators like TUI Group and Thomas Cook have returned to Turkey in the last couple of years following a resurgence in customer demand. It is a much cheaper destination for both consumers and businesses, compared with those in the western Mediterranean.
The growth in 2018 can be attributed to the weak Turkish lira, caused by a currency crisis last summer, cheaper hotels and the perception of an improvement in safety.
Last week Turkey's statistical authority announced that the country's tourism income totaled 29.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.
The annual tourism revenue surged 12.3 percent last year, up from 26.3 billion dollars in the previous year, TurkStat reported. Turkey welcomed 45.6 million visitors in 2018, marking a 18.1 percent hike from the previous year, it added.
Furthermore, expectations are high for the summer season as there is a growing interest for Turkish resorts in international tourism fairs, said experts.
"We noticed that there is a considerable interest for Turkey in international fairs, in Europe especially," said Tugce Ozbilgi, co-founder of Gezimanya, a travel agency from Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city and a popular tourist draw.
"This year it is expected that the tourism industries will be a notch better than 2018," she told Xinhua, explaining the enthusiasm of foreign travelers for Turkey by the fact that it has become "a cheap destination" as the Turkish lira lost nearly 30 percent last year against the dollar.
Meanwhile after a lull of three years, Turkey will see a recovery in convention tourism sector which was negatively affected by political incidents, Selcuk Boynuegri, vice chairman of the Association of TurkishTravel Agencies, told state-run Anadolu Agency.
"Leading international congresses will be held in Turkey this year and in the upcoming years," Boynuegri said. He pointed out that convention tourism yields more revenue compared to individual and package tours.
Germans and Russians are on the top of the list of foreign tourists visiting Turkey. Summer booking made earlier this year showed Antalya, Turkey's primary Mediterranean holiday resort.
Turkey aims to attract more than 5.5 million German tourists this year.
The nation is also deploying efforts to diversify its tourism industry, announced recently Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy who said the government has revised the 2023 targets to 70 million tourists and an income of 70 billion dollars.
Ersoy underlined the need to increase the per capita income by 50 percent by 2023. "In doing so, we now need to move from quantity-based tourism to qualified tourists, meaning tourists with high nonaccommodative spending," he continued.
"Because it is not possible to achieve a 50 percent increase in per capita income only by increasing accommodation income. We need to diversify and increase our nonaccommodative income as well."
Underlining that the perspective toward tourism should be changed in the first place to achieve the target of qualified tourists, he also stressed the importance of prioritizing revenue-oriented tourism rather than cost-oriented, as well as demand-oriented tourism rather than supply-oriented.
And to do so it is paramount to advance toward a "destination management" in Anatolia, said Ozbilgi.
Anatolia is one of the world's premier centers of attractions with its wealth of cultural heritage assets but only a handful of destinations, such as Cappadocia or famous resorts in the Mediterranean littoral, are known among foreign travelers, she said.
"Turkey should promote other parts of Anatolia who have also a lot to offer, such as the renowned gastronomy paradise--southeastern cities of Hatay and Gaziantep, or the eastern Black Sea provinces," she added.