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17 August 2017 / Travel

The Future Tourism Trends for Turkey

As Turkey picks itself up after two years of massive under-achievement in tourism, it is now focussing on three key potential markets - China, Russia and the Muslim sector - to attract more tourists and revive one of its core economic drivers.

Despite security worries feeding into the minds of would-be travellers, and contributing to an estimated $30 billion loss in 2016, Turkey is working towards widening and welcoming the number of nationalities to its shores, while targeting a slot in the global top five holiday destinations.

Confidence has begun to seep back into the sector after it was revealed that income from tourism topped $5.413 billion for April to June 2017, a jump of 8.7 percent compared to 2016's disastrous second quarter. A total 3.5 million foreigners visited Turkey in June, a hike of 43.01 percent on June 2016.

1 Million Chinese Tourists

One of the most significant promotions is to attract 1 million Chinese tourists for 2018. China is still Turkey's second largest importer, and both countries have been working on closer economic ties in the last 12 months.

One of these has been China's One Belt One Road policy, which seeks to extend economic trade along the lines of its fabled Silk Road of centuries past. In doing so, it has signed bilateral agreements with the likes of Turkey to strengthen the economic corridor.

Now with Sino-Turkish relations much improved, Turkey sees an excellent opportunity to bring Chinese travellers to the country. This was recently reflected in China declaring 2018 as 'Turkey Tourism Year' as part of a joint promotion of Turkey's best tourist’s assets.


As a massive market that is still largely untapped, Turkey is keen to start marketing its tourist hotspots because current studies reveal that far from the 'sun, sea and sand' attractions for Northern Europeans, the Chinese are more into historical, cultural and natural landmarks.

Chinese tourists in particular prefer popular destinations, such as the natural travertine delights of Pamukkale, in Denizli; the cave churches and hotels of Cappadocia and the UNESCO World Heritage site of old Istanbul.

A total of 98,000 tourists from China came to Turkey in 2011, and that rose to 313,000 by 2015. However, increasing security worries caused a sharp fall in 2016, but from January to May 2017, some 81,000 tourists from China had arrived, with a respectable end-of-year target of 300,000 being considered.

Even so, given that 180 million Chinese tourists holiday abroad and have a collective spending power of $250 billion, 300,000 visitors is a drop in the ocean, commented Murat Şen, head of the Denizli Touristic Hoteliers Association.

The Muslim Sector

Turkey has long been a major draw for tourists from other Muslim nations and the flow, mainly from the Gulf States, shows no let-up.

With a potential mass market of 120 million holidaying Muslims and a $156 billion-dollar global trade, Turkey has been developing a strategy to increase its share of visitors in what it calls 'Halal Tourism'.

However, in a report from the Independent Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (MÜSİAD), Turkey was portrayed as only partly successful in drawing tourists from Muslim nations. Of the 14 nations that make up the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), only 4.9 million of about 47.5 million tourists from these nations holidayed in Turkey in 2014.


There has, on the flipside, been a better success by attracting visitors from the likes of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - a collective spending power of $62 billion.The MÜSİAD report has called for a clear plan from Turkey's tourism leaders to develop a strategic plan through to 2023 to increase its hand in the halal tourism sector.

It recommends Turkey promotes its Islamic heritage, culture and social backgrounds to Muslim tourists, as well as health tourism and accommodation more suited towards to Muslim tastes. A variety of other considerations, including halal food, and agency promotions have been raised. A major step will be taken in November when Istanbul hosts the Halal Expo.

Reflecting the rise in tourists from the Middle East, the Black Sea region of Turkey has seen hotel investments peak to accommodate them. Investments increased by 13.5 percent from January to June 2017, meaning an extra 101 new builds, with a joint bed capacity of 16,000, across 38 provinces. 

Among these are a total 100 million Turkish Lira investment in seven hotels to capture the rising trend of Arab travellers.Up to June 2017, a total 1.2 million Middle Eastern tourists came to Turkey - a rise of 34 percent compared to last year. Travellers favoured Trabzon, Bodrum, Antalya and Bursa.

From Russia With Love

The demise of the Russia tourist coming to Turkey following the downing of a jet over the Syrian-Turkish border in 2015 demolished the hopes of tourism providers in 2016. However, now that relations have warmed, the feel-good factor is returning.


The number of Russians coming to Turkey in 2015 was 686,000, but that fell to just 47,778 in 2016. However, of a total 12.2 million travellers arriving between January and June, Russia topped the charts with 1.7 million visitors.

Moreover, Russians are helping to bolster their favoured market - Antalya. The Mediterranean resort recorded 6.8 million tourists in 2016, but mid-August and tourism officials overhauled the 6 million mark are hoping that the final figure could be even higher.

All this news is welcomed by Turkish travel agencies, hotels, bars and restaurants who are looking forward to seeing Turkey’s revival as one of the top visited destinations in the world.


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