Istanbul enjoys strong tourist activity

Istanbul enjoys strong tourist activity

Burak Coşan-ISTANBUL
Istanbul enjoys strong tourist activity

Tens of thousands of people left Istanbul for resort towns to spend the long Eid al-Adha holiday in the country’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, but the megacity is enjoying strong interest from international tourists.

Millions of people across the country hit the roads well before the Eid holiday started. Their destinations were either their hometowns or resorts, but the situation was no different for the residents of Istanbul, which has a population of nearly 16 million.

Business owners in Istanbul’s popular hotspots, such as Sultanahmet, reported a noticeable pickup in tourist activity during these days.

“There are not many domestic tourists in the city, but the interest from international tourists has soared. Our daily revenues increased nearly five times compared to two months ago. The occupancy rate at our hotel is around 80 percent, up from 30 percent two months earlier,” said Ahmet Aslan, the manager of a hotel in Sultanahmet.

Most of their guests are from the United States, while tourists from European countries are also staying at the hotel, Aslan said, noting the rise in travelers from the Middle Eastern nations, such as Kuwait, Qatar and Lebanon.

“Our revenues not only from hotel operations but also eatery services are increasing,” he added.

Serbay Dereci, another hotelier in the same area, stressed the rise in room prices in the face of the strong demand.

“During the winter season, the price of a room at our venue was 100 Turkish Liras [around $12], but now it starts from 200 liras and goes up to 300 liras,” he said.

Noting that they mostly expected European tourists, Dereci said that there was strong interest from Arab tourists.

“There is no regular tourist flow, but we are still happy with the situation,” he said.

The pandemic hit hotels very hard in 2020, and there was no business for almost one and a half years, according to Gürkan Aral, the manager of another hotel. “It was a very difficult period for the industry. But we are seeing a revival in tourist activity over the past month. We have guests from Arab countries as well as visitors from Romania and Macedonia,” he stated.

Stating that they pinned their hopes on the arrival of European tourists, Aral said, “We are not there yet due to restrictions. The U.K. has not yet allowed travel to Turkey, and Germany encourages its citizens to vacation inside the European Union.”

If those restrictions are removed, then that will be a huge relief for the sector, Aral said.

Though hotel occupancy rates are rising, some of the hotels in the area are still closed, according to Aydın Karacabay from the Old City Hoteliers’ Platform.

“Prices are not yet where they were in the pre-pandemic era. In the past, European tourists would spend more, but it is not the case now. Still, the revival in the tourist activity gives us hope for the future.” Karacabay said.