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After a disastrous year, Turkey hopes to revive its tourism this summer

Antalya, Turkey’s second main destination, after Istanbul, aims to revive tourism this summer, after a disastrous year.

Last year’s acts of violence, including the attempted coup in July last year, but also Russia‘s decision to suspend charter flights to Turkey, hit the country’s tourism intensely. The total number of foreign tourists who visited the country in 2016 dropped to 23 million, from over 36 million people in the previous year, according to the statistics released by Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Germany takes the first place by its share of 15,34% (3 890 074) in the comparison of arriving foreign visitors by nationality in January-December 2016, Georgia takes the second place by its share of 8,70% (2 206 266) as well as U.Kingdom is the third country by its share of 6,75% (1 711 481),” data from Ministry of Culture and Tourism show.

In 2015, the top 3 nationalities of foreign visitors in Turkey was also lead by people from Germany, with a total of more than 5.8 million people, followed by those in Russia, with over 3.6 million visitors (-18.5% than the number registered in 2014), and the UK, with 2.5 million tourists. In 2014, the top 3 nationalities of foreigners arriving in Turkey was the same.

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Russia banned charter flights to Turkey, which was a popular holiday destination for Russians, after the shooting down of a Russian air force jet by Turkey’s military on 24 November 2015. The decision reflected in the number of Russians who visited Turkey, which plunged 76%, to 866,000 people, in 2016.

Antalya had, last year, approximately 6 million foreign tourists, up to a half than in 2015, when it registered almost 11 million people, while in 2014, the region’s “best year”, registered a total of 11.5 million visitors from abroad.

”There are several problems occurring around our country and also our region. Because of these, we are suffering a decrease of incoming figures, especially last year we had a problem with our figures because one of our most important resource markets is Russian Federation and we had some conflict with the Russian Federation, political problems, and because of that we didn’t have so many Russian clients in 2016. But now our relations between Russian Federation and the Turkish government is getting better, these relations are warming up, and it will affect our figures too,” said Osman Ayık the president of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED).

According to him, problems started since 2011, when the acts of violence started to spread in Syria, but have deepened in 2015, the year when Russia decided to ban charter flights to Turkey and to apply also other economic sanctions. Moreover, he says, the decreasing price of oil, as well as the economic sanctions applied to Russia, refugee problems, and the war in Syria affected tourism movements.

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As for this year’s evolution, he is expecting an increase due to the strong product sold by his country – quality services at good prices.

”Still, there are some problems going around us, especially the Syrian problems, still some refugee problems and also some economical problems. All these global problems also affect the tourism flow to our country, but for 2017 we are still keeping our doors open and we are hoping that our figures will get better, especially if we are looking at our first part of figures, which are getting better, especially for Antalya region we are ready of increasing our figures, but for all Turkey we have some problems, especially in Istanbul. But, in the long run, 2017 it will be our pick up year for us,” Osman Ayık added.

He also said that the prices are now better comparing to the previous year, starting from 20-25% lower than in 2016, but the quality of services remained the same.

”This year will be a better year compared to 2016, mainly because of the situation with Russia. There wasn’t any charter flight last year from Russia, but this year the charter flights started and, given the numbers in April, there is a strong coming back of Russian tourists to Antalya so the start was a positive sign for us for 2016,” said also Erkan Yagci, the president of AKTOB Mediterranean Association of Touristic Hoteliers, which represents Antalya region.

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According to him, tourism contributes 5% to Turkey’s GDP.

The increasing number of tourists was also confirmed by Münir Karaloğlu, the Governor of Antalya, who said that also in May was registered a growth in their number up to 60 percent than the same month of last year. Moreover, he hopes to maintain the same growth percent for the whole year.

Not only Antalya’s tourism suffered due to the turbulences which affected Turkey, but also Istanbul, country’s most visited city, which registered in 2016 a total of 9.2 million foreign tourists, with more than 26 per cent less than in 2015.

The VAT applied for accommodation in Turkey is 8%, and between 8 to 18 percent for connected services to this sector, according to Münir Karaloğlu.

Tourism strategy of Turkey 2023, the year which coincides with the centenary of the Republic of Turkey, aims to reach over 50 million tourists and over $50 billion revenues from tourism.

Madeline Gorthon