Turkish travel companies are expecting a rush of European tourists in the months ahead amid higher demand following the coronavirus pandemic and as energy prices rocket.
“This winter we expect more tourists than in previous years,” Cem Polatoğlu, spokesperson for the travel operators’ association Tur Operatörleri Platformu, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
“During the pandemic, people could not go on holiday for a long time. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, many tourists will feel as though they have ‘broken free from chains,’” he said.
Additionally, the high costs of energy in Europe are also leading to an increase in reservations during the winter season, particularly for accommodation that costs less, he said.
Europe faces an acute energy crunch heading into winter after Russia cut gas supplies in response to Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.
“It is positive for the tourism sector that European tourists – especially pensioners – prefer long holidays in Türkiye during the winter months due to the increase in natural gas prices,” said Ali Onaran, chair of tour operator Prontotour.
He said his data showed that demand was particularly high “from countries like Germany, England and the Netherlands.”
Onaran said it was encouraging that more people were booking their holidays during the winter period despite global inflation.
“There are developments such as rising fuel costs, energy expenses, food crises, which affect ticket and hotel prices and therefore people’s overall travel budget,” he said. Despite those factors, bookings were in line with tour operators’ expectations.
A further incentive for people to head to Türkiye on their holidays may be the weak Turkish lira, according to Polatoğlu.
For tourists, he said that booking a package holiday at a five-star hotel in Türkiye currently costs less than spending the time in Europe. “And with much more comfort than at home,” Polatoğlu added.
Rebound in Türkiye’s critical tourism industry this year has been driven by a major leap in demand from Europe, spearheaded by Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as Russia.
The number of holidaymakers more than doubled in the first eight months of the year. Around 29.3 million tourists arrived in Türkiye from January through August, marking a 108.5% climb from a year ago, on pace to roughly match the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry data.
The first eight-month figure stood at 14.1 million in 2021, 7.2 million in 2020 and 31 million in 2019.
The arrivals have been mainly backed by Russian visitors, who increasingly opted for Türkiye due to flight restrictions applied by Western countries after Russia invaded Ukraine, as well as tourists from Europe. However, the number of German and British visitors rose strongly this year.
At 3.85 million, tourists from Germany topped the list among nations and made up 13% of all visitors in the first eight months, with arrivals jumping 105.73% from a year ago.
Russians followed with just over 3 million, a 22.8% year-over-year increase, and Britons ranked third with 2.36 million, a whopping 2,120% surge from the same period in 2021, according to the data.
Tourism revenues are vital to Türkiye’s economy as the government’s new economic program focuses on flipping the chronic current account deficits to a surplus, prioritizing exports, production and investments, and aiming to lower the increase in consumer prices.
The government raised its year-end targets in July to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in revenues, up from its earlier targets of 45 million arrivals and $35 billion in income.
The number of foreign visitors soared 94.1% to 24.71 million last year when COVID-19 measures were eased compared to 2020. Tourism revenues doubled to almost $25 billion but remained well below the level recorded in 2019.