Terror and economic crisis, the dark year of Turkish tourism

Arrivals plummet over instability, weak ruble. Italians down

27 August, 14:46

    (by Cristoforo Spinella) (ANSAmed) - ISTANBUL, AUGUST 27 - Security concerns following the conflict with ISIS and Kurdish PKK, recent terror attacks also in Istanbul, the fall of the ruble and low-cost Greece has led to a very poor year for tourism in Turkey as the summer season draws to an end.

    According to data released by the government, the number of foreigners who travelled to the country in the first semester of this year dropped 2.25% from 2014, a little under 15 million of arrivals. According to the national statistics agency, the sector plummeted 13.8% from March to June - a trend that now risks to worsen.

    ''We are expecting a dramatic drop in official data on July and August'', explained Timur Bayindir, president of Turob, among the main category associations. The situation is so alarming that the government of Ankara has postponed school openings from September 14 to September 28, leaving families on holiday for the Islamic festival of sacrifice.

    The factor weighing the most on Turkish tourism is domestic instability. ''Many countries have issued advisory warnings for their citizens'', recalled in a point of order Chp opposition MP Cetin Osman Budak. The significant drop concerns arrivals from northern and continental Europe, with the exception of Germany.

    Israeli tourists have also significantly diminished. Italian visitors also dropped by almost 20% in the first six months of the year.

    ''Ever since the incidents in Paris and then Tunisia, fear concerning Islamic terrorism has grown'' among Italians, Gianluca D'Ottavio, director of ''Scoprire Istanbul'', discovering Istanbul, the agency organizing tours with Italians in the city on the Bosphorus, told ANSAmed. ''The drop for us since April is of about 50% and July and August could be even worse''.

    The weak ruble has also weighed on Turkish tourism, preventing an estimated half a million Russians from holidaying as usual on the Mediterranean in the first seven months of the year. The Aegean coast is also in difficulty, with a drop estimated at 10%. In spite of the renowned beaches and archaeological treasures, many this year preferred to travel to the nearby Greek islands, also attracted by more competitive prices.

    Many Turkish nationals also chose them for their holidays.

    On a positive note, tourism has grown 8.3% in Istanbul from January to July.

    Iranians have contributed to the rise, with a potential for growth following the nuclear agreement and détente in diplomatic relations.

    Overall, the best news for Turkey is perhaps the Chinese tourism market with a booming 61%, though numbers remain low at 144,000 arrivals. (ANSAmed).

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