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What will Turkish tourism do for 2017?

26th December 2016

With the 2016 tourist season now largely over, it is known that the Turkish international tourism sector’s revenues have dropped by over one third over the previous season. While the consensus among many is that the main reason for this unexpectedly large drop is due to the travel ban Russia imposed on Turkish holiday destinations, the data shows this ban to be only one reason among several for the drop in revenue, and is far from being the main contributing factor. 

The total number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey peaked in 2014 at 4,479,049 people. In 2015 it fell to 3,537,428, and was only 766,871 for the most recent season.

But despite a more than 80 percent drop in the number of Russian tourists from the previous year, the market impact of the reduced number of Russian visitors only account for 10 percent of the total 35 percent revenue drop, which is less than one third of the total. The Russia-Turkey political spat may have grabbed the headlines, and certainly cost the Turkish tourism sector about a lot of dollars, but further analysis shows these headlines are masking a larger problem.

The remaining larger loss, costing the tourism sector an additional 10 billion dollars, is due to the loss of tourists from countries besides Russia.  Perhaps the loss of visitor numbers hasn’t been as steep as with Russia, but the losses have been across the board, affecting many countries including Germany (down 30 percent), Great Britain (down 32 percent), the Netherlands (down 26 percent), France (down 35 percent) and Italy (down 59 percent). 

These markets have fed the tourism sector for decades, going back to the first investments made in the 1960s. So while the political conflicts impacting Russian tourism have been largely addressed this year and there is optimism for a recovery in 2017, a much larger and possibly more stubborn problem remains.

Looking back in time, below is an illustration from 1986 showing the business expectations for the tourist sector. The Development Bank of Turkey prepared this map to show the main streams of tourists that were expected, which were primarily from Europe and the Middle East.  Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, was not even imagined as being a significant market at the time. Since then, the Turkish tourism sector has served these markets with great success, managing to climb to become the sixth largest tourist market in the world.
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