Tourism sector in Turkey can take years to revive due to unrest
Turkish tourism is recovering from a sharp downturn caused by bomb attacks, diplomatic disputes and a failed coup.
Turkish tourism is recovering from a sharp downturn caused by bomb attacks, diplomatic disputes, and a failed coup, but steep discounts to draw travelers back mean revenues will not rebound for years, industry officials say.
Foreign arrivals surged over 27 percent in 2017 to 32.4 million, largely boosted by Russian tourists after Turkey patched up a rift with Moscow, concerns over security eased and the sector offered rooms at half their normal rates.
"There are positive signs coming from our main tourism markets, but the revenue generated is important, rather than how many people are coming," Timur Bayindir, the head of the Hotel Association of Turkey (TUROB), told Reuters.
Tourism revenues, a major source of funding to plug Turkey's persistent current account deficit, jumped by nearly a fifth to USD 26.3 billion in 2017, still well below the USD 34.3 billion generated in 2014.
"We cut (prices) so much that tourists came to Turkey because they realized that they would spend more money staying at home," Bayindir said.
Room occupancy rose 18 percent to 60.2 percent in 2017 while prices fell 12.4 percent to 66.8 euros - half the price of Italy and less than two-thirds of the costs in Greece or Spain - according to data compiled by TUROB and analysis company STR.
Although prices are expected to recover eventually, Turkey cannot afford to raise them too fast, Corendon tourism group head Yildiray Karaer said.
"Tourists would be scared away," he said. "We can only increase prices by 10 to 15 percent. The price cuts were swift but we need at least three years for prices to bounce back."
Average spending per visitor fell to USD 681 last year from USD 705 in 2016, according to the data from Turkish statistics institute, suggesting revenue may fall short of a government target of USD 1,000 per tourist by 2023.
The recovery in tourist numbers follows 2016's drastic loss of 11 million tourists when foreign arrivals fell to 25.3 million from over 36 million in the two previous years. That represented a loss of around USD 8 billion in revenue.
Europe's largest tourism companies - TUI and Thomas Cook - say summer bookings for Turkey are up, and Ryanair has begun flights from Bratislava and Dublin to Dalaman, a popular destination in western Turkey.
Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that Turkey expects at least 38 million tourists in 2018.
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