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Tourist surge boosts Turkey's economy

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-18 13:43
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Turkey's tourism sector is recovering with growing visits by foreigners in the country, and the increasing revenues bring good news for the struggling economy.

The number of tourists visiting Turkey in the first half of 2018 increased 30 percent year on year, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said.

"Some 16 million foreigners visited our country in the first six months of this year," Ersoy said, quoted by the State-run Anadolu new agency, during his visit recently to the southern holiday resort city of Antalya.

Ersoy stated that Antalya recorded the highest number of visitors with more than 6.6 million during the same period. "We have a tourist target of 14 million in Antalya. We will reach this," Ersoy said.

The new tourism minister is a unique personality in the government announced early this month by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan under the new presidential system, because Ersoy is not affiliated with a political party nor has any political experience.

This is something to his advantage because he comes directly from the sector as he was the CEO of a well-known and successful company, said an official from the ruling Justice and Development party (in Turkish known as Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) to Xinhua.

He knows the weakness and strength of the industry, and he is an expert in this field, said the official on condition of anonymity.

The AKP, led by President Erdogan who won re-election at the critical general elections with sweeping executive powers, expects that tourism revenues to grow.

Turkey's tourism was dealt a harsh blow in 2016 with a series of deadly terror attacks in Istanbul and Ankara. Travel warnings from European countries caused the number of tourists to decline since the early 2000s. But in 2018, the sector began to recover and regained its luster of the former days.

Within the framework of Turkey's 2023 Vision, the centennial of the Turkish Republic, the country aims to attract 50 million foreign tourists and generate an income of $50 billion from tourism activities.

The number of foreign tourists in 2017 reached 32.4 million, and the revenue reached $26.3 billion, helping Turkey to reduce growing current account deficit and improve national income and employment.

While investors have long admired Turkey's growth and budget discipline, the nation's economy feels the strains of a run on the currency and a surge in inflation, worrying financial markets.

From the traditional trio - sun, sea and sand, which is still undoubtedly major attraction, Turkey managed in the last three decades to diversify from coastal tourism to alternative tourism types such as winter, health, nature-adventure and sports.

The health tourism industry is also booming with some 700,000 travelers choosing Turkey for different procedures and surgical interventions, said Chairman of the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council Emin Cakmak.

"We aim to welcome some 850,000 patients in 2018," he added, pointing out that Turkey offers cheaper and better quality of service than European countries.

To further help this particular sector, the Ankara government has recently announced new investment regulations and incentives such as tax exemptions for foreign patients.

"We have attained more than 90 percent occupancy rate for the summer season with a significant increase in the number of both local and foreign travelers," said Veysel Durusoy, the co-owner of a travel agency in Ankara that helps holidaymakers book luxury hotels in Antalya region.

There has been an enormous demand since May in the Mediterranean hotels from especially Germany and Russia, Durusoy said, adding that the region is still very popular and Antalya is likely to attract more than 10 million tourists this year.

According to official figures from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, there is also a significant increase in Iranian and Chinese tourists.

About 250,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey in 2017, up 47 percent from 2016, and up to 400,000 are expected in 2018.

Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Turkey is cooperating tightly in economic development, transportation, cultural exchanges and tourism.

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