Record double for Turkey
AT the turn of the century, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) projected that Turkey’s tourism revenues would skyrocket by over 200 per cent in the first five years of the new millennium.
The 1999 report put Turkey at the top of the pack in the European Union (EU), with a projected revenue increase of 230 per cent, followed by Portugal at 116 per cent and Finland at 109 per cent.
Five years on, Turkey has just unveiled statistics that show that the projection was spot on: it earned record tourism revenues of $15.9 billion, while it also attracted a record of over 20 million tourists.
But Turkey’s tourism success has been nothing short of phenomenal over the last two decades. Between 1980 and 2003, the number of tourists visiting the country increased more than ten-fold, while tourism revenues grew more than 30-fold in the same period.
In 2002, more than 13 million people visited Turkey and tourism revenues reached $ 10.5 billion.
Last year was no different: figures released by the State Statistics Institute (DIE) show that revenues from international tourists was up some 20 percent in 2004 compared to the previous year, at $15.89 billion. This compares to $13.20 billion in 2003 and was well in excess of the government’s initial projections and well in line with the hoped for $16 billion target set for 2005.
In terms of numbers, 2004 was a bumper year, with a total of 20.26 million tourists flocking to Turkey, of whom 17.20 million were foreigners and 3.06 million were expatriates.
And these figures are all the more laudable, given that fact that there was no improvement in foreign investment, while public spending on tourism projects shrunk further, according to reports.
Given this excellent run, Turkey is expected to continue to place more emphasis on international tourism than the domestic punter, as international tourists tend to spend more, stay longer, use more expensive transport and accommodation; and bring in vital foreign currency, which helps to the country’s international balance of payments.
The Gulf, as always, remains a key market sector for Turkey, which is looking towards pulling in more tourists, especially from the UAE.
Turkey’s new Consul General in Dubai, Ihsan Yucel, recently met Department of Tourism and Marketing Promotion (DTCM) director-general Khalid A bin Sulayem and explored ways on how Dubai and Turkey could further boost their tourism ties. “Turkey is a very important market for us and Dubai’s hotels have seen an increase in the number of visitors from Turkey,” bin Sulayem commented.
In conclusion, Turkey’s tourism industry has outperformed the expectations of the WTTC. The industry now accounts for five per cent of the GDP and generates over 600,000 jobs. And despite the latest blip in its graph – in February, Culture and Tourism Minister Erkan Mumcu resigned from both the cabinet and the Ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), citing differences in strategy – by all accounts, Turkey looks well on its way to another record year.