Influx from Europe lifts the spirits of an uneasy Turkish tourism industry

A flock of European tourists, particularly from Germany and Britain, two of the markets Turkey’s tourism sector has missed out on during the coronavirus pandemic, has buoyed an industry worried about the potential impact of war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to hit arrivals from Turkey’s main tourist sources, just as the crucial sector has continued to recover from the impact of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 since 2020.

Industry officials remain optimistic about arrivals from Russia to Antalya, one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean, and are encouraged by bookings and arrivals from Europe.

“There is a very big increase from Europe, especially from the UK and Germany. Planes from the UK have been directed to Turkey,” said the deputy head of the Association of Mediterranean Tourist Hoteliers (AKTOB), Kaan Kavaloğlu.

More than 1.11 million foreign tourists arrived in Antalya between January and the end of April, according to data compiled by the provincial directorate of culture and tourism.

It marks a 162% increase from the estimated 423,773 tourists who arrived in the four months of last year.

Germany tops the list of resort nations with almost 330,000 tourists arriving from the country until the end of last month. The British and Russians followed with 150,944 and 143,485, according to the data.

Some British tour operators have reportedly added extra capacity for flights to Turkey, while industry officials expect flights from Russia to pick up steam this month.

Kavaloğlu voiced the industry view that 2022 will be much better than the previous season, pointing to the increased mobility emanating from the domestic market and Europe amid the war in Ukraine.

“I think this year we will welcome over a million British tourists to Antalya and over 3.5 million to Turkey,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Hacı Osman Üçdan, owner of a hotel chain in Antalya, said he surpassed the turnover of 2019, dubbed the best tourist season ever, in April.

“Our hotels are more full of British tourists. European tourists also bring good income. We shouldn’t start relying on a single market alone,” Üçdan told AA.

“In addition to the UK and Germany, we have guests from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Israel and Denmark.”

Ali Kızıldağ, general manager of a hotel in the famous city of Belek in Antalya, echoes Üçdan’s view, saying that the 2022 season which started with the European market is going well.

Reciprocal flights with Russia began on April 29, Kızıldağ said. “The Russian market will be dynamic in May if there are no problems. The arrival of the budgeted figures will further relax the sector.

The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey jumped more than 151 percent from January to March from a year earlier to around 4.9 million, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The figure was well above around 1.95 million arrivals in January-March last year and 4.24 million in 2020.

Arrivals are still lower than the 5.44 million foreign tourists who arrived in the first quarter of 2019 before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Foreign arrivals in March jumped 129.7% to nearly 2.1 million, the data showed.

Iranians top the list among nations with a 13.22% share, followed by Germans with a 9% share and Bulgaria with 8.2%.

Arrivals from Russia fell 48% year-on-year to 114,384. In contrast, the number of Ukrainians jumped nearly 30% to 66,233, the data showed.

Tourists from the UK, another crucial market for Turkey, jumped 947% year on year in March to 87,349.

Russian banks have been isolated from the global financial system after payment companies suspended operations following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Still, Treasury and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati said holidaymakers arriving from Russia will have no difficulty making payments in Turkey as the Russian payment system continues to develop in the country.

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

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