Published 06 Sep,2021 via Hürriyet Daily News - Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy on Sept. 4 reaffirmed the government’s annual target of 25 million foreign tourists.
“We are not doing badly. We are still committed to our target of 25 million tourists and $20 billion in revenues that we announced at the start of the season,” he said during a press conference at Istanbul’s Maiden Tower.
He also said that some 17 million tourists and Turks living abroad visited the country as of the end of August, up 1 million from the overall figure for 2020.
As the world’s sixth most popular destination in 2019, Turkey hosted more than 52 million visitors compared to other countries that year, including some 7 million Turks living abroad. Turkey raked in nearly $35 billion in tourism revenues in 2019.
Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions last year, the number of foreign tourists dropped 69 percent to around 16 million, while tourism revenues declined to $12 billion.
Turkey’s tourism income stood at $2.4 billion in the first quarter of this year. In the second quarter, tourism revenues hit $3 billion, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).
UK ‘red list’ dashes hopes
When Britain announced Turkey would stay on its “red list” of travel destinations on Aug. 6, some hoteliers decided to close their hotels on the Aegean coast a month earlier than the usual season schedule.
In 2019, Britain was Turkey’s third-biggest source of tourists, with 2.5 million visitors that year, most of whom flocked to the Turquoise Coast near Bodrum and Marmaris, where Onur Arıcan runs his 19-room Mavi Yengeç hotel.
This year the number of British guests was down by two-thirds compared to 2019, Arıcan told Reuters, and he was forced to cut a third of his staff.
Britain imposed COVID-19 travel restrictions on Turkey in October last year and added it to its “red list” in May, forcing all travelers to quarantine in a hotel upon return. The British government has decided to extend the restriction until its next review expected in mid-September.
“Britain’s red list opened a fresh can of worms for Turkish tourism,” Arıcan said. “Due to the absence of the Britons, we will close on Sept. 15 or maybe even earlier.”
Turkey’s tourism season typically ends in November. The sector drives more than 10 percent of the economy, attracting hard currencies vital to offset the trade deficit.
Foreign arrivals jumped fourfold from last year thanks to holidaymakers from Russia, Germany and Arab countries, but they remain well off 2019 levels.
In the southeastern resort town of Marmaris, about 600 hotels are expected to shut in coming days due to London’s decision last week, said Bülent Bülbüloğlu, the chairman of the South Aegean Hoteliers Union.
Hoteliers in the region met with banks and the tourism minister two weeks ago to discuss loan restructuring.
Bank regulator data shows total loans of 114.5 billion Turkish Liras ($13.8 billion) in Turkey’s hotel industry, with non-performing loans at 4.5 billion liras ($541 million) at the end of July.
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