Turkey, diversifying the offer to recover the tourism industry

The tourism sector in Turkey is varied and can count on several typologies of tourism offer, including historical cities, culture, sea & sun tourism and, more recently, health tourism.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2018”, in 2017 the direct contribution of the Travel & Tourism industry to the Country’s GDP was about 24bn euros (TRY 116,7bn), namely 3,8% of total GDP, representing a growth if compared to the previous year, when the direct contribution was about 18bn euros (TRY 87,9bn). Moreover, in 2017, the total contribution, which includes the indirect and induced ones, was about 73bn euros (TRY 359,1bn), namely 11,6% of GDP.

The World Economic Forum’s “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017” ranks Turkey 44th out of 136 analysed Countries for tourism competitiveness. According to the report, strong points of the destination are the cultural resources and business travel (16th), air transport infrastructure (14th), the tourist service infrastructure (42nd) and the international openness (50th), in particular the number of Visa required (34th). On the other hand, weakest points are the Country brand strategy rating (115th), the attention paid to environmental sustainability (112th) and also the price competitiveness (70th).

The tourism sector in Turkey has lately faced several challenges. Due to political instability and safety and security concerns, tourism has been one of the most affected sectors in Turkish economy in the recent years.
The decline of foreign arrivals to Turkey was relevant and strongly affected the Country’s economy. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, in 2014 the number of tourism arrivals almost reached 38 million units; this figure rapidly fell and reached 25 million units in 2016, as a consequence of fear for international terrorism.

Murat Özgüç, Managing Partner of Mocha Tours, tour operator based in Istanbul, underlines this aspect reporting to Twissen that “recent border crisis with Syria, Isis bomb and terror attacks in and out of Istanbul and other major cities of Turkey left deep scars in tourism and on Turkish soil in general. To this aspect, it is safe to say that between 2015 and 2017, we did witness the most challenging period of Turkish tourism. Loss of North American market, diminishing number of European tourists left our sector players in a very tight situation. Also the downing of the Russian jet led to the near collapse of the Russian market, which is the biggest player in regards to number of tourists arriving to Turkey, also the biggest holidaymakers in the Mediterranean area of Turkey, namely Antalya”.

However, as highlighted by the European Travel Commission’s last Quarterly Report, the number of tourism arrivals in 2017 grew by 27,7% yoy, partially addressing the losses of the previous few years and representing the highest growth rate among the European Countries.
The ETC reports that the main source market was Russia (almost 5 million tourists in 2017), while other consolidated important origin markets such as UK and Germany are still awaiting a period of sustained political stability and guaranteed public safety. In fact, according to the UK Foreign Travel Advice, Turkey’s safety for travelers is still unsteady, and ranks the Country with a high risk deriving from international terrorism and from its proximity to Syria.

Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish online newspaper, reports that according to the Turkish Culture Minister the tourism sector in Turkey has proved to be resilient, and that these results have been accomplished also thanks to the relations between Russia and Turkey that have recovered. The two Countries, in fact, put their efforts together to undertake a campaign against terrorism in Syria and, moreover, measures were taken against FETÖ, the Fetullahist Terror Organization. The Minister also reports that Turkey started a new strategy in tourism which consists in opening towards new markets, such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia and, at the same time, diversifying products, from health to religious tourism, from winter to congress tourism.  Özgüç reports that there is a growing focus on gastronomic diversity of Turkey, and each region in conjunction with tourism boards, local governments and gastronomic associations are working hard to promote their area’s offers.

Optimistic previsions about Turkey’s next tourism season are also reported by Travel Daily News. According to a report by On the Beach (beach holiday booking specialist), in fact, booking data reveal Turkey to be the third preferred destination for Britons next summer, along with Spain, Greece, Portugal and Malta.

With the beginning of 2018, things are looking bright –  Özgüç reports – “Russian tourists are re-discovering Turkey, we just had the joyful news that several cruise line companies have listed Turkey once more in their programmes and Istanbul is busier and livelier than ever. Istanbul, Aegean and Mediterranean hotels are nearly fully booked for May and onwards”.

At Twissen we observed that Turkey, in spite of the several political challenges and security concerns, proved to be a resilient tourism destination. As diversifying the tourism offer is one of the keys to recover the industry, there is room for developing new products in segments such as health and wellness tourism, winter tourism and in the bleisure trend.