Istanbul hosts nearly 3 mln tourists in three months

Istanbul hosts nearly 3 mln tourists in three months

Istanbul hosts nearly 3 mln tourists in three months

Istanbul has seen an influx of both local and international visitors in the first three months of 2022, with foreign tourist arrivals in the city rising 136 percent from a year ago.

From January to March this year, 2.9 million international holidaymakers visited the city, up from 1.2 million people in the same period of 2021, according to data from the provincial directorate of culture and tourism.

Amid the influx of tourists, the occupancy rate in the hotels in the metropolis reached 80 to 90 percent, people from the industry said.

In March alone, around 1.2 million foreign tourists came to Istanbul, well above 546,000 visitors in the same month of 2021.

In January and February, the city, which is also Turkey’s commercial and financial center, welcomed 792,000 and 957,000 foreign visitors, respectively, up from 335,000 and 350,000 visitors in the same months of last year.

Data from the local tourism authority showed that 258,000 Russians visited Istanbul in the first three months, up 37 percent on an annual basis, while the number of Iranian tourists grew by 113 percent to 253,000 people.

Istanbul also attracted 226,000 German (up 165 percent), 110,000 French (up 188 percent) and 107,000 British (up 700 percent) nationals in January-March.

“People, who are of Turkish descent but hold foreign nationalities such as French, German, Belgian and Arabs living in European countries, flocked to Istanbul. That gave a boost to tourist numbers,” said Ahmet Yaşar, head of an organization that represents hoteliers in the city.

“January-March is normally not a high tourist season for Istanbul. But this year, those, who are the third generation [of Turkish migrants living in Europe], bought cheap plane tickets and found good deals for hotels online and came to Istanbul to stay two or three days. They are mostly students,” Yaşar explained.

“They stayed at the hotels in the Sirkeci and Sultanahmet quarters of the city, visited the tourist attractions, such as the Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia, took boat rides on the Bosporus and enjoyed the nightlife.”

Yaşar voiced optimism that Istanbul would attract more tourists from Saudi Arabia and Egypt as Ankara has taken steps to improve its diplomatic ties with those two countries.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier Saudia resumed its flights between Jeddah and Istanbul on May 7 after two years of hiatus. An airplane belonging to Saudia landed at Istanbul Airport with 130 passengers on board.

The carrier, which halted its flights in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will also resume flights between Medina and Istanbul on May 11.

Local visitors

Another large group of visitors in the first three months of the year were domestic travelers, according to Yaşar.

People came to Istanbul from other provinces to buy jewelry, clothes and other goods for their wedding ceremonies, he said.

“Thanks to local visitors, occupancy rates at smaller hotels in the city hit around 70 to 80 percent and provided a lifeline for those businesses at a time when room fares were around 20 to 30 euros,” Yaşar added.