The Turkish tourism industry started 2017 with apprehension, but industry insiders are celebrating a successful comeback with high hopes for 2018. Stats revealed by the country’s official statistical organisation said in the first ten months of 2017, tourist numbers increased by 28% year-on-year, coming in at a total of 29 million international visitors.
The numbers also show a dramatic shift in trends. Historically, Istanbul has always been the number one holiday destination, but Antalya who clocked up a record-breaking 9.5 million visitors, took number one place surpassing Istanbul by 500,000 people.
Out of all the nationalities, Russians proved to be the most significant contributors to the comeback with 4.5 million passing through the borders. Russian visitors to Turkey dramatically tanked in 2016, after their government banned all charter holidays and flights. The second biggest visiting nationality was the Germans, followed by Iranians.
Another primary contributor to the comeback was health tourism, a rising global trend that Turkey tapped into with professional procedures performed at much lower prices than European countries. 751,000 people visited Turkey with the specific aim of receiving treatment such as in-vitro fertilisation, cancer treatment, hair transplants and cosmetic surgery.
Out of all the nationalities receiving medical treatment, first was the Iraqis, closely followed by the Libyans. Health tourism is expected to have generated over 7 billion in revenue by the end of 2017.
In 2016, only 23.5 million tourists visited Turkey, a sharp drop on 2015 when the country welcomed 36 million people. Turkish tourism experts are hopeful they can see through to the end of 2017 with a near match to 2015 figures.
Globally, travel operators, airlines and workers are gearing up for the 2018 Turkish tourism industry to return to its usual record-breaking figures. The UK travel giant, Thomas Cook, has said 2018 bookings for Turkey are strong.
EasyJet has also added two more flights to their Dalaman operation, while Jet2 increased their capacity by nearly 100%, and added a direct route from Ireland to Turkey. Meanwhile Atlas Global said they are doubling their flights from Russian to Antalya.
Tourism professionals in Antalya are also aiming to earn 100 million euros in the first three months from sports tourism alone. They plan to do this by hosting around 2,000 young player football teams for training. Stating that things are back to the good old days, teams from countries like Iran, Slovenia and Russia have already confirmed their placements.
Industry insiders are also predicting the return of cruise ships and European visitors. Germany’s FTI group, one of the country’s biggest travel agencies said no other destination could match Turkey and they will continue to invest time and money in it. The group currently run 16 flights to Bodrum and will begin their new schedule in March.