Thermal tourism proves lucrative trade for Turkey

Around 1,500 thermal springs in western Anatolia, Turkey, have generated some 1 billion U.S. dollars of tourism revenue in 2019.

According to the Thermal Health and Tourism Association (TESTUD), 750,000 overseas travelers visited Turkey’s thermal and spa facilities this year, mostly from China, Germany, the ROK, Japan, Russia and so on.

Foreign tourists brought foreign exchange inflow into the country, said Yavuz Yillik, head of the TESTUD.

“Our country should focus on thermal tourism besides the sea, sand and sun tourism,” he said, adding that enjoying the thermal springs is not a new trend or fashion.

The Romans, once occupied most of Anatolia, built the ancient city of Hieropolis close to the mineral waters of Pamukkale, renowned for its white limestone travertine terraces shaped by calcium-rich hot springs and healing waters.

In 2019, Pamukkale, dating back more than 2,000 years, was the fourth most visited site in Turkey by foreign tourists who sought cures in thermal waters, according to official data from the Turkish Tourism Ministry.

Tourism professionals hailed Turkish government’s efforts to diversify the country’s tourism resources during the last decade, indicating that there is still a great potential to invest in spa, thermal and other relevant health tourism.

Turkey aims to rank the second globally in terms of health tourism by 2023.

“Only some thermal springs in western Turkey are used for tourism purposes, there is really a great potential in this sector as awareness and interest in geothermal facilities are growing in the world,” Alp Serin, a tourism professional, told Xinhua.

“We can easily triple the revenues that we had for this year if we play the game right as we accommodate visitors from all over the planet who want to receive treatment for well-being in spring waters, and Turkey offers cheaper options than other thermal-rich countries,” he noted.

He emphasized the need for a better cooperation and collaboration between spa and health sectors in order to offer effective and low-cost treatment packages for clients.

He described the provinces of Afyon, Mugla, Denizli, Bursa and Antalya as the preferred tourism locations of foreign visitors who can also visit historical sites nearby.

Turkey is slowly recovering from a recession that hit all sectors of the economy but relatively spared the tourism sector.

The currency crisis of 2018, which caused the drop of the value of Turkish lira by one third, has boosted the tourism sector, as deals became cheaper for foreign visitors.

Serin also indicated that Chinese tourists were interested in Turkey’s thermal tourism facilities and that he expected the number of travelers to rise in the following years with the nation’s promotion in the Chinese market.

Among Turkey’s efforts to draw more Chinese visitors was the recent announcement that Chinese actor Zhu Yawen was named Turkey’s tourism envoy in Beijing.