Tourists flock to Istanbul, surpassing pre-pandemic levels


As most coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed, Turkey's largest metropolis is seeing an influx of visitors, with crowd levels comparable to those seen before the pandemic.

Shortage of Accommodation

Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia, saw the number of foreign tourists more than quadruple in the first quarter of this year, as the vital industry continues to recover from the impact of COVID-19 prevention measures that have been in place since 2020. “There is no room left at hotels in Istanbul,” said Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO) head Sekib Avdagic.

"Based on existing reservations, you will not be able to get a room in an Istanbul hotel in May." Many hotels are already fully booked, with a total occupancy rate of 98 percent, according to Avdagic, who spoke to reporters at a Paris trade show. "We expect this interest to continue throughout June and July."

Arrivals in Istanbul

According to figures from the provincial culture and tourist directorate, foreign arrivals in Istanbul increased 135 percent year over year from January to March, to nearly 2.9 million. The number was up from 1.23 million in the previous year's comparable time.

Foreign Arrivals

According to the data, arrivals from the United Kingdom increased by 700 percent year over year to 106,596, up from just 13,309 in the first quarter of previous year. Iranians came in second with 253,000, a rise of 113 percent year over year. The number of tourists from Germany increased by 164 percent to 225,000, while those from France increased by almost 187 percent to 110,000, up from 38,000 a year before.

In March, nicknamed the "dead season," the occupancy rate at hotels in Istanbul reached 92 percent, according to Avdagic, who said that such a number had never been observed before the pandemic. The overall number of international visitors to Istanbul increased by 80% year on year to 9 million in 2021, compared to slightly over 5 million in 2020.

According to the information gathered by Avdagic, at least 250,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia are expected to arrive. His comments come as Ankara and Riyadh begin a new era of relations following intensive attempts to restore frayed ties following President Recep Tayyip Erdoan's first high-level visit to Saudi Arabia in years late last month.


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