Security concerns send Turkey’s foreign visitor arrivals tumbling
ANKARA - Reuters
REUTERS photoThe number of foreign visitors coming to Turkey tumbled 10 percent in February, the biggest drop in a decade, data released by the Tourism Ministry showed on March 29, as widening security concerns continue to eat into a major source of revenue for the Turkish economy.
Turkey has been hit by a spate of bomb attacks this year, including two blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Istanbul, the country’s largest city and a traditional tourist draw. In January a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city’s historic heart, killing 12 German tourists.
Tourist interest in Turkey could drop further after another suicide bomber blew himself up on Istanbul’s most popular shopping thoroughfare this month, killing three Israeli tourists and an Iranian. This week Israel warned its citizens visiting Turkey to leave “as soon as possible,” predicting possible follow-up attacks.
Tourism fell by 10.32 percent year-on-year in February, to 1.24 million people, data from the Tourism Ministry showed.
The decline was the biggest since October 2006. The industry is also suffering from a chill in relations with Russia - typically a major source of tourism revenue for Turkey - as Russian visitors fell by more than half during the month.
Relations between Moscow and Ankara have worsened since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border last year.
The number of foreign arrivals declined 8.5 percent in the first two months of the year to around 2.4 million, according to the data.
While the number of arrivals from Japan declined 58.5 percent in the first two months of the year, arrivals from South Korea dropped around 44 percent. The number of European tourists visiting Turkey declined 7.7 percent in the mentioned period compared to the same period of the previous year.
The signs are not good before the May to October peak season, when Turkey usually earns around 70 percent of its tourism revenues.
German travel group TUI had earlier reported a 40 percent drop in summer bookings for holidays in Turkey and the picture for Britain, the number three market, is uncertain.
British holiday company Thomas Cook also said more of its customers were opting to holiday in Spain, as well as the United States and Cuba. Fewer wanted to go to Turkey, it added.
Economists have forecast that Turkey’s tourism revenue may drop by a quarter this year, costing the country around $8 billion.