Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal has said the sector has unavoidably affected negatively with the Russian crisis as well as regional uncertainties. He expects around 4.5 million losses in the number of Russian tourists this year.
A number of measures will be taken to recover these losses and the planned EXPO meeting in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya will be a great platform, Ünal said at a meeting in Ankara on Jan. 14, as reported by Reuters.
After a Russian warplane was downed by Turkey on Nov. 24, 2015, many travel agencies in Russia canceled their Turkey packages, in line with government pressure. For years, Russia provided the second largest source of tourists for Turkey after Germany.
Turkey saw a dramatic drop in the number of foreign arrivals from Europe and Russia in the first 11 months of the year, while the number of total foreign arrivals saw only a slight decline (around 1.36 percent) in the mentioned period compared to the first eleven months of 2014, according to temporary data revealed by the Tourism Ministry on Dec. 29, 2015. The number of Russian arrivals decreased by 18 percent to 3.6 million in the first eleven months of the year compared to the same period of 2014. A total of 4.4 million Russian tourists visited Turkey in 2014.
“The upcoming days are quite crucial for us, but we have a big leverage, which is the planned EXPO meeting in Antalya. We can recover our losses in the Russian market, around 4.5 million tourists, through this organization,” he said.
The EXPO Antalya will open on April 23 and will remain open the next six months.
Underlining Turkey’s aim of reaching 50 million tourists annually by 2023, Ünal said, “It is of great importance for us to achieve diversification in the sector…We need to prevent any negative factor which damages Turkey’s safe and secure country image.”
Turkey announced a series of measures to minimize the negative effects of the Russian crisis over the sector last December.
Regarding a $6,000 fuel subsidy offered to airplanes with the minimum capacity of 100 passengers, Ünal said in December 2015 that the ministry is “working on a plan to extend the scope of this subsidy to cover Western and northern European countries.”
Focusing on Europe
Meanwhile, Turkish tourism sector players, who expect a continued decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey in 2016 unless the current diplomatic crisis between the two countries is resolved, will launch a promotional campaign in Europe under the leadership of the Tourism Ministry to overcome the potential losses. The sector will also focus on the Chinese and Indian markets in the medium-term.
In this vein, Minister Ünal is scheduled to hold a promotional tour in four European countries to meet sector representatives this month, as reported by Doğan News Agency on Jan. 14.
Turkey’s leading tourism associations have continuously voiced their concern that the sector will likely see a difficult year in 2016 amid the Sultanahmet attack as well as other concerns.
Concerns about the future of the sector were raised even further after an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-linked suicide bomber killed at least 10 foreign tourists and left 15 wounded in Istanbul’s historical area of Sultanahmet on Jan. 12.
Ongoing terror attacks and operations in Turkey’s eastern regions have also triggered reservation cancelations across the country, according to sector representatives.
Cappadocia Touristic Entrepreneurs Association (KAPTİD) President Yakup Dinler stressed Turkey was mainly known for culture tourism across the world.
“The Russian crisis has put Antalya in a big trouble, but we were more relaxed as culture tourism didn’t see any loss in Istanbul, Cappadocia or Pamukkale. However, the blast [on Jan. 12] erupted in Istanbul’s heart, at one of the top destinations in demand. I see 2016 as a year of loss,” Dinler said, as quoted by Doğan News Agency.
He also noted Germany’s travel warning that called on citizens not to visit Turkey.
“The German market will be another loss this year, we fear,” he said.
In the Aegean province of Çanakkale, the tourism sector was “stabbed” after the Sultanahmet attack, as well as the terror attacks targeting civilians in Suruç and Ankara, said Çanakkale Tourism Companies, Hoteliers and Investors Association President Kemal Pazarbaşı.
“Terror, violence and tourism are completely conflicting concepts. We are following the developments with sorrow and fear,” Pazarbaşı said, adding that cancelations have increased every day, as international tourism companies have started to see Turkey as a dangerous tourism destination.
According to Pazarbaşı, following the recent terror incidents, “Turkey may face the most difficult tourism year since the Gulf War.”