Shrinkage in Turkish tourism causes big job losses
Ali Kayalar – ISTANBULA recent downward trend in Turkish tourism has resulted in noteworthy job losses in the industry, with Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) figures showing that accommodation and tour-operating businesses have seen the most damage.
The number of employees at accommodation facilities and travel agencies fell by 14 percent to 257,352 in 2016 from a year earlier, according to social security figures covering the January to November period.
Sector sources said the 42,135 job losses affect around 200,000 people when the families of employees are considered.
A total of 311 tour operator headquarters or branches closed down in 2016, industry sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The overall employment fall in the sector, which employs around 1 million people, stood at a 3.1 percent.
Professionals say the number of people losing their jobs in industries directly or indirectly linked to tourism - such as food and beverages, transportation, construction, entertainment, arts and sports - is even higher.
TÜİK figures show that the number of houses bought by foreigners fell to 18,189 in 2016, with a decline of more than 20 percent from the previous year’s 22,830.
A similar decline can also be observed in retail.
Credit card spending by foreigners fell to a little less than $14 million in 2016 to $17 million in 2015, according to the Interbank Card Center, which points to an 18.5 percent drop.
“The matter is also about the woman who sells local bread to those who are returning from yacht tours in Bodrum,” one sector representative said.
A sharp decline in Russian tourists to Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts has played a big role in the shrinkage.
Some 60 percent of the hotels in the Antalya-Kemer region did not open their doors in 2016, with many others closing the season earlier than the previous years, most of them ending business in September, one source told the Daily News.
The job losses in Antalya, heart of international tourism in Turkey and a top destination for Russians, exceeded 20 percent.
In 2016, the number of arrivals from Russia into Turkey regressed to 866,256 overall, a 76.2 percent drop from the previous year amid the now-resolved diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
The deadly bomb attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over the past two years have caused particular security concerns for international travelers.
The decline may cause damages that may last for more than a year, one professional said, adding that directing international tour operators, booking companies and cruise organizers back to Turkey could take many last years.
Tourism companies are seeking government support to fight back, including a cut in VAT rates.
A new government campaign calling on Turks living abroad to spend their vacations and hold weddings in Turkey will be launched in Germany next month, the Culture and Tourism Ministry announced over the weekend.
The “Bring your neighbor and come” campaign will be introduced in Berlin’s International Tourism Bourse (ITB) on March 8.
Officials expect to lure 8 million more tourists a year with the campaign.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month called on Turks abroad to spend their vacations in their homeland.
Among the 3 million ethnic Turks living in Germany, around 1.4 million are Turkish citizens, according to the Turkish authorities.
Most of the 5 million Turks living abroad reside in European countries such as France, Belgium, and Britain along with Germany.
The Prime Ministry’s Invest in Turkey initiative says the tourism industry’s direct contribution to the current account deficit, a sensitive indicator for the national economy, in 2015 was 80 percent, while its contributions to GDP the same year reached 4.37 percent.