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Ankara, April 21 – Turkey’s tourism industry is recovering from a major setback caused by the February 6 devastating earthquakes, business insiders said.
The number of tourism bookings rose by nearly 40 per cent in mid-March compared with that of last year, after a one-and-a-half months slowdown following the earthquakes, said Hamit Kuk, a consultant of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies.
The earthquakes, struck at a time when the country’s tourism sector was restoring its losses from the Covid-19 pandemic, had led to cancellations or postponement in tourism reservations both from overseas and local markets, Xinhua news agency quoted the consultant as saying.
However, the Turkish lira has strengthened the competitiveness of the country’s tourism sector.
Since 2022, the lira has lost about 70 per cent of its value against the US dollar.
Favourable exchange rates in the past year have further stimulated the demand for tourism services in Turkey, a tourist destination popular with Russians, Germans and Britons, among other foreign tourists, said Elcin Yildiz, an Ankara-based freelance tourist guide.
Ali Bahar, president of the Antalya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said an upcoming nine-day vacation is also expected to boost the domestic demand for tourism services.
Many Turkish families are expected to combine the upcoming school break with the three-day Eid holiday, which begins on April 21, making it a nine-day vacation.
However, as Turkey’s tourism industry seeks to reach pre-pandemic levels of reservations, the impact of the earthquakes and the country’s economic woes on domestic demand should not be underestimated, according to Kuk.
The high inflation has led to a sharp decline in Turkish households’ purchasing power. In addition, the prices of the hotel rooms have increased by 15 to 40 percent due to the recent surge in the operation costs, he explained.
Furthermore, there is no demand for tours in earthquake-hit eastern and southeastern Turkey, which are known for its cultural excursions, he said.
The tourism industry, which employs about two million people, plays an important part in Turkey’s economy.
In 2022, Turkey hosted 51.3 million foreign visitors, who contributed $46.3 billion in tourism revenues, up from $38.5 billion in 2019, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
Earlier, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said that the country expects to host nearly 60 million foreign tourists in 2023, and 90 million in 2028.
The government expects that tourism will generate $56 billion in revenues this year and $100 billion in five years, he said.