Number of Turks visiting US almost halved in 2017
Güneş Kömürcüler - ISTANBUL
The number of Turkish citizens visiting the United States last year halved from the year before, amid a visa crisis between the two allies, a controversial laptop ban that was ultimately abolished, and escalating bilateral political tension.
Official data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) showed that 157,896 Turks visited the U.S. in 2017. This figure was significantly down from the all-time high in 2016, when 313,654 Turkish citizens visited the U.S.
The same measure in 2015 was 251,903, according to TÜİK data.
The number of Turkish people visiting Canada also decreased to 17,932 last year, down from 34,962 in the previous year, TÜİK data also showed.
Washington on Oct. 8 announced the suspension of all visa services in Turkey, apart from immigrant visas, in reaction to the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in the country. Ankara responded with similar measures, but the months-long visa row between Turkey and the United States ended last month as both countries announced that they would resume full-capacity visa proceedings for each other’s citizens.
Sector representatives suggest that while the laptop ban may have affected the figures, a similar ban did not hit Turkish citizens’ arrivals to the United Kingdom.
The ban was imposed by the U.S. at 10 airports in eight countries - Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey - to address fears that bombs could be concealed in electronic devices. The U.S. ban lasted three months but it was lifted on in-cabin electronic devices, such as laptops and tablet computers, on flights from Turkey on July 5, 2017.
The number of Turkish people visiting the U.K. rose to 67,004 in 2017 from 51,937 in the previous year, according to TÜİK data. Turkish people’s arrivals to Britain hit their highest level of 95,328 in 2010.
A significant decline in the Turkish Lira’s value against the U.S. dollar and other main currencies might also have an impact on Turks’ foreign visits over the last year, sector representatives also noted.
The Turkish Lira hit historic lows early in 2017 and at the end of the year, touching nearly 4 against the dollar amid a range of risks. However, it recovered slightly early in 2018, reaching 3.76 in early February.
Georgia and Greece most popular
In 2017, the most popular destinations for Turkish citizens were Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria, according to TÜİK data.
The number of Turks visiting Georgia was nearly 1 million last year, though that also marked a decline of around 170,000 decline compared to 2016.
Arrivals into Greece, meanwhile, rose to 921,262.
Thousands of Turkish people have in recent years flocked to Greek islands for vacations, attracted by good-value accommodation in relation to services offered for cheaper prices compared to their counterparts in Turkey.
Some 807,645 Turks visited Bulgaria last year, marking a slight year-on-year increase.