Tourism news update
Regional unrest and Russian sanctions hammered Turkish tourism last year, resulting in an estimated loss of $15 billion. This year, Turkey’s fighting to reclaim its share of the sector.
Globally, tourism is growing at 3.5% each year, and the UN’s World Tourism Organisation expects international tourist numbers to hit 1.8 billion by 2030 - a 50% increase over current levels.
Turkey’s tourist targets are ambitious: the government hopes to attract 100 million annual tourists by 2023. This would earn $100 billion in revenue. To reach this goal the country must address geopolitical problems and improve tourism infrastructure.
Syrians offer hope for sector
The EU fund for Syrians in Turkey, which is up to 3 billion Euros, could be used for tourism purposes. The funds must be spent on specific projects, and won’t be allocated to the government. But officials are strongly considering channelling these funds towards projects which will create permanent jobs and infrastructure for refugees - as well as bolstering the tourism sector.
One such area where this could be done is the Tarsus region. Located on the Mediterranean in southwestern Turkey, Tarsus has a climate and lifestyle that’s similar to what Syrians are already used to, and many refugees are settling in Adana, Mersin, Antakya and Gaziantep, where tourism infrastructure will be developed. Tourism projects here could generate 300,000 jobs.
The Black Sea region is also a developing tourist area. It attracts Arabic-speaking clients, which would make Syrians ideal tourist workers. Up to 50,000 Syrian refugees could comfortably be employed in this region, providing support for 250,00 family members.
The initial 3 billion euro investment will likely spark larger sums channelled into the tourism sector as banks and corporations get on board and begin investing - we’ve already seen this happen in areas like Antalya and Istanbul. Syrians working in Turkey could provide an extremely positive economic boost.
Improved relations between Turkey and Russia has seen the number of tourists from that country increase.
Half of Russia’s holidaymakers have chosen Turkey as their 2017 destination, according to a report from the Association of Tour Operators in Russia, who surveyed the country’s tour operators and agencies.
Russian reservations for Turkish getaways resumed in September after sanctions were lifted. Russians are keen to take advantage of the appreciating Russian ruble and the discounts offered by Turkish hotels.
The most popular Turkish destinations are once again concentrated in Antalya, in Alanya, Side and Kemer. The numbers also tend to have a knock-on effect on the property market, with Russians buying a Antalya villa and apartments for summer use.
The first post-sanction charter planes carrying Russian tourists to Turkey touched down at the beginning of September, and numbers swelled until 800,000 more tourists than the previous year had visited in the final months of 2016. It was one way, at least, that the tourist sector ended the year on a hopeful note.
Turkish destinations like Antalya, Istanbul and Cappadocia, as well as niche tourism like health, gastronomic or historical tourism will be marketed as far afield as China, North America and South America
Israel is another country that will be targeted, at the International Mediterranean Tourism Market next month. The visit is significant as it will be the first ministerial-level visit to Israel after 2010’s diplomatic incident where Israeli marines stormed a ship, aiming to break a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turkish activists.
The tourism exhibition is part of a wider effort to improve relations with Israel.
Pushing the thermal sector
The tourism sector will receive a boost from increased promotion and investment in Turkey’s thermal sector.
Traditional thermal destinations will not only offer thermal pools but spas, water parks, health centres and entertainment venues.
Turkey has the most thermal resources and the third number of hot springs in Europe. The sector is already popular with the elderly, so the government is wishing to promote thermal facilities to younger people and families.
Investments in thermal facilities will be spread over several sites around Southern Turkey.
Thermal pools are considered by many to provide health benefits like alleviating skin and respiratory problems, as well as rheumatism. They’re especially popular with visitors from the Middle East.
Read a more detailed analysis here: Can Turkey's tourism sector bounce back in 2017?
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