Foreign tourists are pouring into Istanbul, largely for shopping and health tourism, in a boost for the critical industry, which is escaping the 2020-21 coronavirus dip.
Visitors to Istanbul, which are usually dominated by the Middle East and Gulf, increased 135% year-on-year to approximately 4 million in April, compared to roughly 4.4 million before the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkey Hoteliers Union (TUROB) Chair Muberra Eresin noted that while arrivals from Europe and the Americas are increasing, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of market diversification.
According to official figures, the total number of foreign visitors to Turkey in the first four months of this year increased by 172.5 % from a year ago to approximately 7.47 million, up from 2.74 million in 2021.
According to Eresin, the pandemic has largely been forgotten, and the sector is on its way to full recovery, saying: "2022 will be a far better year than 2021, and the pandemic's wounds will have been seriously healed. In the coming years, we expect that our tourism revenues will skyrocket, and that Istanbul will once again become one of the world's top three dazzling destinations."
When COVID-19 regulations were removed in 2021, the number of foreign visitors increased by 94.1 percent to 24.71 million, and income nearly doubled to about 25 billion USD. Tourism officials expect that this year's statistics will match or exceed those of 2019, when 52 million visitors generated 34.5 billion USD in revenue.
According to Eresin, the figures could reach 42 million and 35 billion USD this year.
Turkey is in demand
Known as a destination where Europe meets Asia that has long captivated visitors with its culture, art and history, Istanbul is seeing a significant increase in the number of foreigners arriving for shopping and health tourism. According to a World Travel & Tourism Council report, Turkey is set to be the fourth most popular European destination this summer.
Russia and Ukraine
Nonetheless, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is expected to have an influence on tourist arrivals from Turkey's most popular destinations. Last year, Russians and Ukrainians were the country's first and third largest visitors. "Tourism in Istanbul is currently dominated by Middle Eastern and Gulf tourists. The Middle East market's current vibrancy continues," Eresin stated.
"Mobility in the American and European markets has begun. We anticipate a significant increase in visitor arrivals from Latin America, as in previous years.”
From January to April, there was a 370% rise in arrivals from South American countries, she said. Arrivals from Europe, Japan, and the United States increased by 382%, 236%, and 224%, respectively, according to Eresin.
"It gives great hope in terms of growth rates reaching three digits or perhaps four digits in some areas in the future months and years."
Summer vacations, notably from the Middle East, are expected to increase hotel occupancy rates in Istanbul to between 85% and 90% in July, August, and September, according to Eresin. "It appears that on a month-by-month basis, we will catch up with the occupancy rates of 2019," she said.
"In Istanbul, occupancy rates were 63.7% in the first four months of the year, up from the same period in 2021, room prices were 97.30 euros ($104.70), up 30%, and revenue per room was 61.80 euros, up 137 %,” she stated.
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