What is behind Turkey’s tourism boom?

  • 5 Feb 2020

Breaking records in the tourism sector, Turkey is keeping its pace to reach its 2023 targets. And every travel enthusiast must know what they are.

Tourists walk in a covered market and shopping in Istanbul in August 20, 2018. ( AP )

The combination of breathtaking natural beauty, historic and cultural sites, along with great food, makes Turkey one of the top tourist destinations in the world. As in previous years, the number of incoming tourists to Turkey increased by 13.7 percent in 2019, reaching 51.8 million people, setting an all time record.  

According to Ali Bilir, Vice Chairman of Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), Turkey has diversified its tourism industry to a great extent, adding new sites to its list of destinations while working hard toward the goal of reaching the target of hosting 75 million guests by 2023. 

“With the hospitality of Turkish people and the quality of the facilities, Turkey is not very far from reaching the 75 million target,” Bilir told TRT World.

He said the security scenario has improved in the past few years, which has attracted more and more people and created a positive perception in the minds of travel enthusiasts.  

According to recent data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), Turkey's tourism sector continues to experience a positive trend and, together with the rising number of incoming tourists, the country is likely to earn $34.5 billion from the tourism industry alone, marking a historic milestone. 

In terms of growth, Turkey's Tourism Ministry reports that most incoming tourists are from Russia with seven million people visiting Turkey in 2019, followed by Germany, with five million visitors arriving the same year. Bulgarians are in third place with 2.7 million visitors visiting the country, followed by the UK and Iran. The UK and Iran are at the fourth and fifth spots.

Istanbul, the cultural and historic capital of Turkey, and Antalya were at the top of the most visited destinations. Both of these cities hosted nearly 30 million tourists last year. 

Great potential for health tourism

Under the Health Transformation Programme, which began in 2003, Turkey has become one of the world's leading countries in the healthcare sector. 

A view of the layers of limestones and travertines at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale in ancient city of Hierapolis on August 11, 2018 in Denizli, Turkey. Thermal water have been running at Pamukkale for 2500 years. Despite the hot weather, layers of limestones and travertines of Pamukkale attract many tourists.(AA)

The country has succeeded in attaining high standards both for its hospitals and healthcare professionals with help of the programme over the past decade.

Together with medical tourism and thermal tourism, medical care services for elders and the disabled is another important part of health tourism.

Bilir underlined that Turkey has many international rehabilitation and health care organisations which have internationally accredited standards. 

According to Bilir, European countries, which are the most important target market for Turkey, will have a substantial elderly population. Turkey will serve these people with its developed facilities in coming years.

“Turkey is among the top five most visited countries for health tourism in the world,” he epxlained.

Great tourist influx to Antalya 

Antalya has become a brand renowned all around the world in recent years. It has more than 1,700 attractions together with a 600,000 bed capacity when it comes to accommodation. 

A view of Side Ancient City, the one of the tourist attraction in Turkey, on November 30, 2017 in Manavgat district of Antalya, Turkey.(AA)

Bilir said: “There are 421 five-star hotels only in Antalya, which is more than the number of five-star hotels in Spain, which is considered the biggest competitor in the Mediterranean region.”

“Antalya offers separate alternatives not only with sea, sand, sun, but also with its historical and natural beauty,” he added.

Visitors who come for sea tourism can also reach the ski resorts within just three hours.

Efforts to increase income

Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy announced the new programme last year to meet the 2023 tourism target. 

The ministry launched new regulations and strategies to increase visitor numbers and revenue from tourism.

Vocational schools for the tourism and hospitality sector will be active and effective year around. The concept of 'seasonal tourism' is ending and employees will work year around.

The government also funds films, up to 30 percent of the total cost of shooting in the country, as these films will be displayed abroad and will help as advertisements for the country. 

TURSAB plays an active role in the development of the tourism sector of the country by taking part in the most important international fairs. Bilir also added that TURSAB will attend major tourism fairs such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Moscow, and Dubai in the coming months.

In order to increase visitor spend per night, which is about $73, Bilir said “the all-inclusive system, which brings a significant number of tourists, needs to be reduced”.

He added: “Incoming tourists should be more involved in activities outside the hotel.”

Bilir also suggested that congress and cruise tourism should be promoted together with health and thermal tourism.