Foreign visitors to Turkey fall in first half amid economy, security woes

Foreign visitors to Turkey fall in first half amid economy, security woes

ANKARA - Reuters
Foreign visitors to Turkey fall in first half amid economy, security woes

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The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell in the first half of the year while the outlook for the rest of 2015 looked gloomy as heightened security risks weigh on tourists’ appetite for visiting the country.

Foreign arrivals fell 2.25 percent to 14.89 million people in the first six months, data from the Tourism Ministry showed on July 29. 

Tourism revenue is the biggest component of financing for Turkey’s large current account deficit.

Last week, Turkey started bombing outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq as well as Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) militants in northern Syria after a suicide bomber killed 32 people in the EU candidate’s southeast.

Many countries including the United States, Great Britain and Germany have issued travel advisories for their citizens in recent months. 

The biggest fall was recorded for Russian tourists, with a fall of almost 25 percent, mainly due to the economic problems in Russia, in the first six months of the year compared to the same period of 2014. 

The number of people from France visiting Turkey decreased by 22.3 percent and from Italy by 19.5 percent in the first half of the year from the same period of the previous year, according to data from the ministry. 

The highest number of tourists came from Germany in the first half of the year with around 2 million, followed by Russia with 1.45 million and Britain with around 950,000 people, according to the ministry data. 

The head of the Hoteliers Association (TUROB), Timur Bayındır, told Reuters in May that the decrease in the Russian tourist number was expected to continue in the coming months while Western tourists were concerned by ISIL in the region. 

“With the ongoing security situation in southeast Turkey and the possibility of spontaneous demonstrations, the U.S. embassy reminds U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, avoid demonstrations, review personal security plans and be aware of your surroundings,” the embassy said on its website.

“U.S. citizens should follow local news sources for any potential areas of concern. Travel to southeast Turkey is restricted for U.S. government employees, and, if possible, U.S. citizens should defer travel to these areas as well,” it added. 

Before the geopolitical risks came to prominence in the sector, industry representatives said their tourism income expectation for the year was around $30 billion to 35 billion. This figure, however, is now expected to decrease with the rising security concerns. 

The net tourism income financed around 53 percent of the country’s current account gap at $46.5 billion in 2014.