Tourist arrival numbers up in Istanbul despite protests

Tourist arrival numbers up in Istanbul despite protests

Eren Güler Hürriyet / ISTANBUL
Tourist arrival numbers up in Istanbul despite protests

Tourists take bosphorus view pictures in Istanbul. The number of foreign tourists reached 4 million in Turkey in June with a 4.9 percent increase from the same month a year earlier. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Turkey welcomed around 4 million foreign visitors in June, marking a 5 percent rise from the same period a year earlier while Istanbul posted a 2 percent rise despite the Gezi protests which lasted throughout the month. However, the increase in Istanbul may be due to its serving as a transit point, sector professionals said.

While foreign tourist numbers reached 4 million in Turkey in June, in a 4.9 percent rise on the same month last year, numbers increased to 14.5 million for the first six months of the year, marking a 14.3 percent rise when compared to the same period of the previous year, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism.

The transfer passengers might have increased the number of foreign visitors in Istanbul, the Turkish Hotels and Investors Association (TUROB) President Timur Bayındır said. The occupancy rate of Istanbul’s hotels did not show an increase, said Bayındır, adding that their hypothesis was that the rise in foreign tourist numbers was related to passengers who came through Istanbul to travel to other cities.

The hotels’ occupancy rate in the Talimhane area of Taksim, which was most affected by the protests, fell significantly in June. The 2 percent increase for June in Istanbul seems to be related to the foreigners who entered Turkey through Istanbul. The occupancy rate in Talimhane decreased to around 50 percent in June and 35-40 percent in July, said İsmet Öztanık, a board member of Talimhane Hoteliers Association.

“It is very important that Istanbul is a connection point. It is the transit point between south and north, and east and west. Eventually, there will be transfer passengers that come to Istanbul and they will raise the number,” Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) President Osman Ayık said.

Rate of increase slows

While the number of foreign visitors in the country rose by 27 percent in February, 26 percent in March, 13 percent in April and 18 percent in May, this number showed only 5 percent rise in July, the data show.

“There is a rise in June when compared to the same month a year earlier despite the Gezi Park protests. But, the perception created by the protests along with recent alcohol code [that brought restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption] lessened the rate of increase,” said Ayık.

The coastal areas weren’t affected by the recent Gezi Park incidents until July because the early reservations were made by the New Year, Ayık said. The rate of increase in Antalya is expected to decline to 1-2 percent in July from 6 percent in June. Their forecast for the annual rise of foreign tourist numbers in Turkey might be revised from 14 percent to 10-11 percent, he said.