Is it time to look at China instead of Russia in tourism?
Turkey welcomes the sixth most number of tourists every year.
Turkey, which hosted only 7 million tourists in 1995, according to data provided by Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), reached the figure of 39 million tourists in 2013, obtaining a tourism income of $32 billion. Tourism is not a sector to be shrugged off for a Turkey that is suffering from a current account deficit problem. It is also a remedy for unemployment if we take into consideration that it was the second sector to give job vacancy ads after retailers.
The fact that tourism revenues in the first nine months of 2014 are $2 billion more compared to the same period last year indicates an increasing trend in incomes. However, experts see dark clouds for the year 2015 for the sector.
The reason for the dark clouds is Russia.
Russian tourists, who head for Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts and especially Antalya, went ahead of German tourists for the first time this year, sending 4.1 million tourists to Turkey.
Will Russia keep its place in 2015? It is quite difficult today to immediately say “yes” to this question.
The head of the Mediterranean Association of Tourist Hoteliers (AKTOB), Yusuf Hacısüleyman, conveyed his impressions of the WTM in London where the heart of world tourism beats, ringing alarm bells for the Russian market. According to him, there are significant developments going on in Russia which will closely affect Turkish tourism. The most important of these is the fall in oil prices which is a significant income source for Russia.
Also, the Ukrainian crisis resulting in the sanctions of Western countries has caused a severe devaluation of the ruble against the dollar and the euro. In the event that sanctions continue, it is predicted that the ruble, which has already depreciated 38 percent, will devaluate further more.
According to the head of AKTOB, these developments will seriously affect the overseas travel of Russians. There is already a claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his early departure from the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, called on Russians “to go to Sochi instead of Turkey.” Putin’s call is quite reasonable so that the facilities in Sochi built for the 2014 Winter Olympics for $50 billion don’t remain vacant and so that the ruble stays inside the country.
However, from the point of Turkey, there is obviously a concerning situation in terms of Russian tourists. The deputy head of the Turkish-Russian Business Council, İzzet Ekmekçibaşı, supports these concerns, saying a drop of 40 percent may be experienced in the number of incoming Russian tourists because of the fall in their purchasing power, while cancellations in vacations may put tour operators bringing tourists from Russia in difficulty.
Tourism experts, who do not expect any remarkable increase in the number of tourists from Europe in 2015 either, have been calling, for a long time, for a focus instead on China. The World Tourism Organization has predicted that in 2020, one of four tourists in Europe will be from China. Moreover, Chinese tourists like to spend money.
According to a report by the Chinese Social Sciences Academy, Chinese tourists were first in the world in 2013 in spending a total of $102 billion. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey in 2013 is only 138,000. In other words, Turkey is lagging far behind in taking a share of this market.
The bad news though is this: According to a list by TripAdvisor, Turkey is not among the 20 favorite destinations of Chinese tourists.
In this situation, the best advice to tourism managers would be to focus on the Chinese market instead of the Russian one.
TripAdvisor has named “culture” at the top of the list of reasons why Chinese tourists travel. This clue is a huge one for Turkey – provided they know how to take advantage of opportunities.