Turkey’s foreign visitors jumped 53 percent in July from a year earlier, exceeding pre-pandemic levels and paving the way for $37 billion in tourism revenue sought by the government in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s unorthodox economic policy, according to Reuters.
Foreign visitors to Turkey leapt to 6.67 million in July, mostly wealthy Russian visitors who opted for Turkey due to flight restrictions imposed by Western countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The number of German and British visitors also rose significantly.
Tourism revenues are vital to Turkey’s economy as Erdoğan’s economic plan focuses on expanding the current account surplus in order to tackle high inflation and interest rates.
The tourism ministry raised its year-end targets last month to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in tourism revenue.
“July figures were strong and so is August. When we look at the current bookings, number of flights and seats allocated by tour operators for September, October and November, it seems that the ministry’s targets will be achieved,” said Bülent Bülbüloğlu, vice chairman of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED).
Along with high demand from Britons and Germans, Bülbüloğlu pointed to the wealthy Russians coming to the Turkish market.
“Wealthy Russians who used to travel to more expensive destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece have also turned to Turkey due to flight restrictions imposed by Western countries,” said Bülbüloğlu.
Year-to-date, Germans were the top source market with 2.99 million visitors, followed by 2.2 million Russians and 1.8 million Britons. Turkey’s total foreign visitors were up by 128 percent on the year to 23.03 million, still a bit below 2019’s 24.7 million.
“The number of Russians in particular is increasing by the day. Now we have around 80 daily flights from Russia to Antalya, and we know that number will also go up,” said Ülkay Atmaca, general manager of Innvista Hotels in Antalya’s Belek district.
Atmaca said the outlook for the next two months was also optimistic, adding that he expected the season to be extended until November.
The weakening lira also makes Turkey a more attractive destination for foreign visitors.
The lira, which has been trading at historic lows, has lost 27 percent of its value this year, after shedding more than 40 percent last year.
“Turkey has a big price advantage compared to its European rivals. And no doubt, the recent weakness in the lira makes the country more attractive,” said TUROFED’s Bülbüloğlu.