ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Turkish tourism numbers are plunging on the back of myriad regional tensions, the tourism minister Ertuğrul Günay admits even while retaining optimism about a possible rebound. Turkey still have a chance, he says
Despite the decrease in the overall 2012 tourism data so far, the ancient city of Ephesus attracts 1 million locals and foreigners in the first seven month of the year. REUTERS photo
Some 2 million fewer tourists visited Turkey this year due to tensions with Syria, political problems with Iran
and continuing weak demand from Israel, according to Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay.
Despite the more anemic figures, the minister is satisfied with the tourism figures so far this year.
Noting that the events in Syria, Iran
have affected Turkey’s tourism sector, he said: “This year we did not see as many tourists as we saw in 2011. However, we still hope that we will see more tourists than we saw in 2010.”
Tourism trends in Turkey are related to the current political situation, Günay said. “That’s why tourist figures are increasing. In 2011, many reservations to North Africa were canceled, and tourist decided to come to Turkey instead,” he said.
“Currently the European tourism market has shrunk, but other markets have developed. This year we do not expect very large growth like we saw in 2011. We also want Ankara
to become a historical destination for tourists,” he said.
Günay told Anatolia news agency yesterday that Turkey was expecting to host up to 33 million tourists in 2012, despite a fall in visitors coming from Israel
and Syria as well as the economic crisis in Europe.
Over $25 billion is expected to be earned from tourism, Günay said, adding that Turkey hosted 31.4
million tourists in 2011. According to figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), Turkey earned $23 billion from tourism
last year, he said.Decrease in tourist figures
The latest developments in Syria have especially affected Turkey’s tourism industry, Günay said.
“Last year tourists coming from Syria reached 750,000. We also have a problem with Iran. Iran
has blocked Turkey’s tourism ads, and this has caused a decrease in the tourism figures,” the minister said. “If we add the loss of tourist numbers from Israel, we reach a figure of 2 million.”
Officials from tourism agencies from Arab countries have spoken about why their citizens chose to come to Turkey for holidays. Among the most important factors they detailed were the food, the shared history, the natural beauty, and religious similarities between Turkey and their home countries.
“We have lost a total of 400,000 [people] from Israel,” said Günay, noting the diplomatic chill between Tel Aviv and Ankara
had affected the Israeli public.
“[But] when we consider the current situation at the hotels, we can say that we are not in a bad situation. Istanbul’s current tourist situation is really good.,” Günay said adding that the ministry still expects a boost. “We can say it is more than the expected,” he said.
Istanbul’s position depends mainly on European tourists, he said, adding that they expected to reach 50 million tourists in 2023.