Looking at Turkish Tourism in 2018 and Predictions for 2019
In August 2018, the Turkish lira took a dramatic nosedive against the USD. Exchange rates were already at an all-time high, but in what seemed like a roller coaster month, economists, investors and market speculators struggled to keep up with events, and their implications.
However, the Turkish tourism and mainstream travel industries, saw a silver lining and kicked into action, by promoting excellent value for money holidays, previously only seen in Turkey pre-2000. Travel agencies and airlines reported a surge in bookings.
While the lira’s drop in value might seem responsible for the tourism upsurge, it was just the icing on the cake. From January to June 2018, Turkey had already opened its doors to 16 million tourists of various nationalities. For the same period, revenue increased to 11.4 billion USD, from 8.7 billion USD.
Travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, bars, restaurants and shops all breathed a sigh of relief. Since 2015, the industry and everyone connected to it had suffered after a series of deadly terrorist attacks and a coup kept international tourists away. Those days were over, and everyone rejoiced as stats revealed a staggering 30% jump year-on-year in arrivals.
Why the Turkish Tourism Industry Bounced Back
As well as a return of confidence in safety and security, other factors contributed towards Turkey’s success in the first half of 2018. An in-depth part of their 2023 tourism vision plan was diversification of niches and nationalities of visitors.
The Halal and Medical niches are reporting record revenues and bookings. Turkey has also been reaching out to many nations to market itself as an ideal holiday destination. Nationalities of tourists visiting Turkey during this time include 2.4 million Russians, 1.6 million Germans, 1.1 million Iranian, 1 million Georgians, 987,000 Bulgarians.
Let’s not forget Indians, who have a fondness for lavish and extravagant weddings in Antalya. Earlier weddings for wealthy Indian executives have accommodated 300 plus guests and included unlimited budgets for décor, design and entertainment. British visitors also increased in June as airlines doubled their seat allocations to major touristic airports like Antalya, Dalaman and Bodrum.
Final targets for 2018 is to host 40 million international visitors and generate 32 billion USD, but although the focus is on foreign tourists, Turks are also spending cash. Hotels across the country reported a 100% occupancy rate for August and urged Turks travelling for the Eid holiday to make reservations before they left home. Newspapers also reported populations for coastal places like Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye swelled to record all-time highs.
So, as we approach the last two months of the tourism season in Turkey, what we can expect from the rest of this year and how will the industry perform in 2019?
The 100-Day Action Plan
Tourism is without a doubt, a crucial part of Turkey’s economy. Hence at the beginning of August, as part of a more massive project, the government unveiled their 100-day tourism action plan. Key points show the government is not willing to rest on their laurels.
First, they want to target tourists with large disposable incomes and high spending potential. This includes the health and medical tourism sector, which is thriving. Tourists arriving for procedures like hair transplants, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and other operations, often spend as three times more than average beach tourists.
Targeting the Chinese Market
Turkey is also courting the Chinese, who have the biggest population in the world, hence more potential for spending. They already declared 2018 to be the year of tourism in Turkey, and Chinese tourists have arrived in masses, an increase of 93% year on year.
They stay away from beach resorts in favour of exploring historical and cultural attractions like Ephesus, Pamukkale, Cappadocia and Safranbolu. As a country with the highest amount of people travelling abroad, they are also big spenders, generating more revenue than other nationalities.
Yet, there is room for improvement. Tour operators in China complained there just wasn’t enough flight seats to cope with demand, and international research has also revealed a distinct lack of tour guides who speak Chinese.
The New Istanbul Third Airport, opening in October will solve the flight availability problem.
New Istanbul Third Airport
With airlines set to fly to over 300 global destinations, and an ultramodern terminal, aviation experts say the Istanbul New Third Airport will be world’s biggest transport hub, connecting the east and west.
Turkish Airlines have already said they expect ticket prices to drop because of increased availability, and cargo going through the airport will change export/import operations. Turkey is also looking to expand to a 12-month season, rather than just relying on the traditional May to October summer period. The new airport will contribute towards this plan.
No-one can accuse Turkey of not promoting their historical sites, and the 12,000-year-old Gobeklitepe temple that will soon reopen to visitors is the latest star performer. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list because of its cultural importance, expectations are that by 2023, over 1 million tourists will travel to see the site every year.
Hopes for 2019
In Istanbul, all eyes will be on the opening of the Ataturk Cultural Centre, an architectural project marketed as modern’s Istanbul grandest landmark. Many said the old building was an eyesore, but the new version designed by the esteemed and respected Tabanlioglu Group promises to be pleasing on the eye.
As an arts and culture venue, it will also include an opera house, art galleries, libraries, conference halls and much more. Officials hope it will make Istanbul, a cultural centre to match the likes of Paris, London and New York, and also contribute towards improving Turkish tourism.
Till then, the government is doing all it can to stabilise the economy and prevent more devaluing, but economists predict the exchange rate problem will continue for some time to come. Hence in 2019, tourists could still be getting excellent value for money.