As one door shuts, another may open for Antalya
The diplomatic crisis with Russia has hit Turkey’s Mediterranean resort of Antalya the hardest. When visiting the city, where the economy is mainly based on tourism and agriculture, it is impossible not to see the impact of this crisis. Yet, as one door shuts for Antalya, others seem to be opening.
Before elaborating on the new opportunities arising for the city, let’s make a quick visit to see what is now happening. Tourist facilities in Antalya, which hosts nearly one-third of all tourists visiting Turkey, are preparing for the summer season under a cloud. When walking around Kaleiçi, the historic city center, nearly empty shops and restaurants cannot be unseen. Most of the hotels are saying they are not hopeful for this season and have kept their repair and maintenance works at a minimum.
Antalya saw a drop of almost 90 percent in the number of Russian tourists in the first four months of the year from the same period in 2015, while the number of tourists visiting the resort by air decreased 30 percent in the mentioned period to 843,517, according to data from the Civilian Administration of the Antalya Airport.
Antalya also saw a drop of some 30 percent in the number of German tourists in the January-April period of this year compared to the same period in 2015.
The Russian sanctions have also had a significantly negative effect on the city’s agricultural sector, which once made most of its exports to this country.
At this point, a number of bright points need to be mentioned. While losing a significant number of Russian and partly German tourists, Antalya has become a popular spot for top-level international events.
Representatives from the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality said the city started to take a huge number of calls from leading international organizations to hold events after the G-20 meetings, which were held last November. International recognition of Antalya has peaked, especially after the G-20 meetings, they added.
For instance, the city hosted a meeting of agricultural ministers in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the 30th FAO Regional Conference for Europe took place in Antalya on May 2-6. Much more will follow, according to the municipality, as many five-star hotels, some of which offer wide golf areas, as well as the secure environment, beautiful landscapes and long beaches of the city attract international attention.
Another crucial organization for the city is Expo 2016, which was officially opened April 22 and will remain open for the next six months. More than 1.5 million season tickets and one-day entry cards have been sold for EXPO 2016 Antalya, according to recent data from the organization. On April 23, when the 112-hectare exhibition site was opened to the public, 35,705 people visited the site, according to official data. At least 5 million local and foreign tourists are expected to visit the site.
Secondly, though still in small numbers, the city has started to lure tourists from new markets, such as Iran and Israel, according to tourism representatives. Antalya saw a sharp increase in the number of Israeli tourists in the January-April period this year with a rise of around 73 percent compared to the same period of 2015. Around 28,000 Israeli tourists visited the resort this year. The number of Iranian and Ukrainian tourists visiting Antalya also increased this year, the data showed.
Another promising area for the city over the next couple of years might be local tourists. The number of local tourists is just around 4 million in Turkey. This is a very low figure in Turkey’s total tourist number, which is around 40 million, according to tourism players. If the sector is able to increase this figure to 10 million at least, sector players hope to recover their losses significantly.
To achieve this, the city needs to diversify its tourism in a bid to turn dark days into an opportunity. Antalya’s all-inclusive hotel packages were very popular among Russian tourists, but with this system it is not likely for the city to lure others. By focusing on its historical and natural riches and offering more touristic opportunities out of hotels, Antalya will attract more local and foreign tourists.
To be sure, the recovery in the tourism sector will enable the same for the agricultural sector, as the latter will find the opportunity to make more sales to the local market, mainly touristic facilities, while finding new foreign markets.
The city has been seeking ways to rebound its losses in an expected slow season, yet it seems able to achieve this with a number of crucial steps.