Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unveiled a plan on Monday to support Turkey's tourism sector including a 255 million lira ($87 million) grant and measures to help tourism firms restructure debt.
In the press conference held to announce a “2016 Tourism Action Plan,” Davutoglu said that there would be numerous advantages and support schemes ranging from grant-in-aid to long-term loans for tourism companies.
“We will provide to our industry 255 million Turkish liras [$86 million] of grant-in-aid within action package," Davutoglu said.
"We are also delaying the sector’s debt payment of 288 million Turkish liras and implementing a right to extend the maturity date of payments to three years.”
The action plan also offers a $6,000 subsidy per flight for tourism agencies from what is known as the “Group A” between April 1 and May 31. "Group A" tourism agencies can offer tickets for all types of transportation as well as arrange tours.
Moreover, accommodation and sea tourism facilities such as boat tour companies and entertainment venues that generate foreign exchange earnings of more than $750,000 last year, will benefit from advantages generally offered to export companies. The threshold was $1 million last year.
Davutoglu added that a spare budget allowance would be used for these financial aids, and that this would not constitute an additional burden to the economy.
“There is no reason to panic with regards to tourist numbers; precautionary measures are being taken,” Davutoglu said.
“We already provide support to the tourism sector. I do not expect any contraction in the tourism sector.”
Tourist numbers of Turkey have seen steady declines since August last year. The slip in numbers has further deepened after Turkish fighter jets downed a Russian warplane that had violated Turkish airspace.
The number of tourists coming to Turkey dipped by 22.6 percent in the last quarter of 2015 year-on-year to 8.11 million while tourism revenue slipped 14.3 percent to $6.57 billion.
The main driver of the decline was the fall in the number of Russian tourists. After the fighter jet incident, Moscow imposed various sanctions in numerous areas including tourism.
According to data from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Russian tourist numbers have declined by 18.5 percent in 2015, compared to previous year, to 3.65 million.
“No one should expect that Turkey will stumble and turn in on itself due to the fire circle around it; instead we will open to the world and integrate with it more,” Davutoglu said.
He also said he expected Russian tourists who favour southern beach towns such as Alanya and Antalya to keep coming to Turkey and did not expect any decline in their number, despite the tension between the two countries over the shooting down of a Russian jet last year.
Istanbul sits among Europe's 'Big Four' megacities
Meanwhile, a recent international report placed Istanbul firmly among Europe's “Big Four” megacities alongside London, Moscow and Paris.
According to JLL, a global financial and professional services firm that specialises in commercial real estate services and investment management, Istanbul has been the most improved “emerging world city over the past five years on a range of performance indicators and its economic fundamentals are stronger than many of its global peer cities.”
The report stated that JLL's Index of Commercial Attraction sees Istanbul ranking among the world's top 20 most important business hubs and that among its emerging world city peers, Istanbul stands out for having improved as a trusted financial centre, a home to innovation and commerce, and for infrastructure improvements.
"A unique cultural identity and extraordinary vibrancy supports Istanbul's position among world's top five visitor destinations, although it is vulnerable to security threats. Global connectivity is improving rapidly -- and Istanbul is now the world's fastest growing air passenger hub," the report said.
"Expansion of the city's infrastructure is transforming Istanbul and is playing a key role in its economic dynamism," it added.