Turkish tourism minister ‘optimistic’ about sector despite security concerns
Nuray Babacan - ANKARA
AA photoTurkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal has said that travelers’ bookings for summer holidays in Turkey will start again by the end of April, Ünal said in a speech at parliament amid rising security concerns and a significant decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey.
Travelers’ bookings for summer holidays in Turkey will start again by the end of April, Ünal said in a speech at parliament.
“I am hopeful about the tourism sector. We have just received the latest figures for this season. There is only a 10 percent of decrease in the number of tourists visiting Turkey in February compared to the same month of 2015. The reservations for this year have been slow as people are cautious. We believe the reservations will rebound again by the end of April,” he said.
Ünal noted that tour operators have been on hold now, but they need to send tourists somewhere eventually.
“The reservations for Italy and Spain have already been full…I believe the reservations for Turkey will rebound again by the end of April and we will close the year with only 20 percent of loss compared to the previous year,” he said.
The 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.
The decline was the biggest since October 2006. The industry is also suffering from a chill in relations with Russia 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.
Ünal said there has been some recovery in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey.
“Some 4.5 million Russians visited Turkey last year. I believe around 2.5 million Russians will visit Turkey as the ties with Russia have already started to recover. We will try to close the gap by luring more Iranian and local tourists. I do not expect such a big loss, contrary to several estimates,” he noted.
He said the sector will leave the difficult times behind thanks to several measures.
“We have been in talks with leading tour operators. They want further discounts per tourist. We did what we could, but they want more. We will wait for that reason,” Ünal added.
Meanwhile, minister Ünal denied reports that quoted him as saying that "Turkey would manage to close this year’s tourism season only with 20 percent loss."
This report was updated at 2:42 p.m. after the minister's clarification.