Turkey's foreign arrivals figure rose by 18% y/y to 2.07mn in April, representing the first annual growth recorded since July 2014, tourism ministry data showed on May 30.
The country experienced a general and dramatic decline in arrivals during 2016 as anxieties spread over waves of terrorism and Russia placed restrictions on charter flights to Turkish airports after falling out with Ankara over the shooting down of a Russian jet near the Syrian border in November 2015. The International Monetary Fund estimated that the substantial reduction in arrivals took a percentage point off GDP growth in the year.
Across January-April, a total of 5.87mn foreign tourists visited the country, a 0.96% increase on a year ago, thanks to the April growth.
In April, the number of Russian tourists jumped by 486% y/y to 181,865 while across the first four months of the year 319,904 Russian tourists arrived in Turkey, up 229% compared with the same period of 2016.
The spike in the Russian tourist visitor rate reflected the positive effects of the Ankara-Moscow rapprochement process launched last summer. However, last month Russian authorities warned about a possible renewed suspension of charter flights to Turkey, citing the complicated political situation with Turkey.
Data also showed that the number of European tourists visiting Turkey fell by 2% y/y to 944,900 in April and declined by 16% y/y to 2.33mn across January-April.
UK-based tour operator Thomas Cook is shifting capacity from Spain into Greece and Turkey in parallel with customer demand, Peter Fankhausser, CEO of the company, said on May 18.
However, on May 15, Fritz Joussen, CEO of UK-based TUI Group, the world’s largest tour operator, said that despite a limited recovery his company had experienced subdued demand in bookings for Turkey and North Africa this year due to ongoing security concerns.
Over January-April, foreign tourist arrivals from the Middle East rose by 20% y/y to 741,588, equivalent to a 13% share in total arrivals.
Foreign tourist arrivals from the Middle East fell 30% y/y to 2.51mn - a 10% share - according to culture ministry data.
The Hotels Association of Turkey (TUROB) forecasts an increase of around 4-6% y/y in Turkey's 2017 arrivals from the Middle East. The share of bookings from the Middle East in total was 10% in 2010 but it reached 21.4% in 2016, according to TUROB.
Earlier this month, the latest annual Global Muslim Travel Index showed Turkey dropping one spot to fourth place.
Turkey’s foreign tourist arrivals figure saw its peak point of 36.8mn in 2014. That figure slipped 2% y/y to 36.2mn in 2015 due to rising security threats. The unfavourable trend sharpened to a 30% y/y fall in 2016, bringing total arrivals to 25.3mn, after the downing of the Russian jet near the Syrian border in November 2015. The 2016 figure was the lowest experienced since 2007.
Turkey’s tourism revenues plunged 17.1% y/y to stand at $3.37bn in Q1 this year. Tourism revenues help the country finance its large current account deficit. The government is targeting $23.5bn in tourism revenues for this year.
The weakened outlook for Turkey and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region somewhat reflects security and geopolitical risks and the related drop in tourism receipts and investment, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on May 10 in the latest edition of its Regional Economic Prospects report.