BY DAILY SABAH WITH AA
Shaking off the coronavirus fallout even as many other countries face air travel woes, Türkiye continues to be an attractive destination for international tourists this summer, mostly from key European source markets, top international tourism officials said.
Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), stressed that tourism’s restart and recovery is well underway.
“Türkiye has been among the destinations to experience a marked upturn in international arrivals during the peak summer season,” thanks to pent-up demand for travel being unleashed with the lifting or easing of travel restrictions, Pololikashvili told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Türkiye has attracted over 23 million foreign visitors from January through July, surging 128% annually, according to official data, paving the way for $37 billion in tourism revenues sought by the government.
Pololikashvili underlined that Türkiye was “well-placed” to welcome visitors back as it has been supporting its tourism sector throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Praising the investments in tourism infrastructure and labor, Pololikashvili said, “Coupled with the country’s rich history, and its many attractions, including coastal destinations, Türkiye is an attractive option for tourists, most notably from key European source markets.”
The big rebound in Turkish tourism this year has been driven by flocks of tourists from Europe, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, in addition to arrivals from Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine had sparked fears across the vital industry.
From January through July, Germans were Türkiye’s top source market with 2.99 million visitors, followed by 2.2 million Russians and 1.8 million Britons, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry data.
Despite concerns over the impact of the war in Ukraine, the Turkish government recently raised its year-end targets to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in revenues, up from its earlier targets of 45 million arrivals and $35 billion in income.
Citing the latest figures, Pololikashvili said international tourism saw a strong rebound in the first five months of 2022, with arrivals reaching almost half (46%) the levels of the same period of 2019.
Arrivals more than tripled (up 221%) this January-May compared to last year, but remained 54% below 2019 levels.
By region, Europe and the Americas continued to lead the recovery where most of the travel restrictions have been lifted, but arrivals there remained 36% and 40% below 2019 levels, respectively.
“Strong tourism demand during the Northern Hemisphere summer season is expected to consolidate these positive results, particularly as more destinations ease or lift travel restrictions,” he said.
But Pololikashvili stressed that ongoing geopolitical insecurity – the Russia-Ukraine war – along with rising interest rates in most countries and pressure on consumers could hurt tourism’s growth during the remainder of this year.
“Mounting economic and geopolitical challenges continue to pose a risk to recovery,” he added.
Pololikashvili emphasized that as Ukraine and Russia together accounted for 3% of all global tourism spending in 2020, the World Tourism Organization projects that a long, drawn-out conflict could cause a loss of $14 billion in tourism receipts.
Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), told AA that the outlook for global travel and tourism is bright, with strong growth figures.
Travel and tourism is set to reach pre-pandemic levels by next year, Simpson said, adding the sector is projected to grow to nearly $8.4 trillion by the end of this year, only slightly behind 2019 levels.
“Travel is going to be one of the driving forces behind the global recovery, creating nearly 126 million jobs over the next decade. In fact, one in three of every new job created will be in our sector,” she said.
‘Bravo to Türkiye’
Simpson highlighted that the travel and tourism sector of Türkiye, “an incredibly popular destination,” is “just as positive.”
Türkiye’s travel and tourism gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow twice as fast as the national economy over the next decade and will reach near-pre-pandemic levels by next year, she stressed.
“It’s not surprising that Türkiye has become one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, with its breathtaking natural beauty, historical and archaeological sites, constantly improving hotel and tourism infrastructure, and a tradition of hospitality and competitive prices,” she said.
Simpson pointed to the new Istanbul Airport’s role in improving connectivity between Türkiye and key international markets, saying it will help drive more visitors.
Citing World Travel and Tourism Council figures, Simpson said the country’s travel and tourism sector saw a massive jump in its recovery, contributing more than TL 526 billion ($59.2 billion) to the national economy in 2021, when the U.S. dollar/Turkish lira parity exchange rate averaged 8.88.
“It is seriously bouncing back, with international visitor spending jumping 104% last year, compared to the year before, reaching just over TL 249 billion ($13.7 billion). Bravo to Türkiye,” she said.
Touching on the Russia-Ukraine war, Simpson said both Russia and Ukraine’s outbound travel accounted for 5.4% of global international trips in 2019, with Russia the larger source market.
“Destinations in Eastern Europe will fare worse than other regions due to a greater reliance on travel from both countries,” she added.