Even though the daily coronavirus infections have plummeted under tractable margins, Turkey is nearing to normalising tourism with strict social distancing norms in place. The travel figures have significantly reduced due to the pandemic but the country is gearing up to host millions of foreign visitors in the coming months if the momentum is maintained.
The culture and tourism minister, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, gave statements to the private broadcaster NTV, “ Our expectations for the year 2020 were very high. We will see significant declines compared with the 2019 data”.
He further said that “If there is no setback in air traffic, as we haven’t seen so far, we think that we can reach a tourist number of 15 million at the end of the year. We will pass a threshold of $11 billion in revenues this year, I estimate”
The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector
The rising COVID-19 cases across the world had completely shut down the tourism industry, bringing global travel operations to a halt.
However, after the air services restarted with many countries, arrivals were down nearly 86% as compared to July’s 2019 data record of 6.6 million. In April, international tourists had virtually disappeared when a partial lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The country lifted most of its partial lockdown in the month of June and tourism facilities reopened with rigorous precautions and safety measures.
To ensure the well-being of tourists, a collaboration between Turkey’s Transportation and Culture and Tourism ministries, ‘The Safe Tourism Certification’ was launched. It covers a comprehensive range of safety measures: from accommodation and transportation to health conditions of hospitality employees and foreigners alike.
Turkey, the world’s number six tourist destination welcomed around 932,927 tourists in July which more than quadrupled the June figures of 214,768 as per the Culture and Tourism Ministry data.
Last year, Turkey witnessed over 45 million visitors, up from approximately 39.5 million in 2018.
Cities that hosted a maximum number of tourists in Turkey
Istanbul captured the spot of the most favourable Turkish destination, welcoming nearly 2.7 million visitors. Statistics show that the city’s tourism numbers make up half of everyone who travelled to Turkey, proving that it has been the consistent main draw.
The next main attraction was the northwestern city of Edirne, which shares borders with both Greece and Bulgaria. A total of 817,292 people visited the place in Turkey.
Another popular tourist destination was Antalya, which is situated in the Mediterranean. It closely followed Edirne, totalling up to 648,768 international visitors.
Nationalities of foreign tourists
When it came to summing up foreign tourists, Germany took the lead with 2.67 million people pouring into Turkish lands. With nearly 8.33 percent, Bulgarians, however, came in second place followed by Russians with 6.12 percent of the total foreign visitors. Ukrainians accounted for approximately 5 percent of the tourist arrivals in Turkey.
According to the Turkish Hotel Association (TUROB) figures, the hotel occupancy rates across the country over the months of January and July fell by nearly 33 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison to the similar timeframe and months in the year 2019, it has declined by almost 50 percent.
The hotel occupancy rate has naturally impacted the revenue per available rooms. It has decreased by 58.3 percent to around $24 in the first seven months of this year. TUROB further revealed that the average daily rate for hotel rooms reached $72.4.
Before the pandemic struck the country in mid-March, Turkey was anticipating 60 million foreign tourists to bring a whopping $40 billion in revenues in 2020.