Türkiye forecasted to attract foreign tourists despite deadly quakes

(File: Famagusta Gazette)

The annual peak season for Turkish tourism is expected to come in time, as popular resorts are largely far away from regions recently hit by massive earthquakes, local experts have said.

Türkiye was still recovering from earthquakes that have killed tens of thousands of people and toppled countless buildings in the southern and central parts of the country since Feb. 6.

The disaster has prompted Turkish governments to immediately warn tourists not to travel to the affected zone for their safety concerns, despite the region not being an essential part of the country’s popular destinations, except for the Hatay Province.

“Southeastern Türkiye is noted for some attractions and regional gastronomy features, but are mainly the domain of cultural visitors,” Esra Bilir, a freelance tour operator from the capital city Ankara, told Xinhua.

Bilir said that the most welcomed destinations are located in the southern and western parts of the country, along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastline, hundreds of km from the earthquake zone.

Main airlines and Türkiye’s international airports are operating as normal, and clients are maintaining their reservations, she added.

“There may be a slight decrease in the number of visitors in March or April, but with the start of the season, in May, we expect full occupancy in most resorts,” Bilir said.

Türkiye annually receives millions of tourists from across the globe. The industry is vital for the Turkish economy by employing about two million people.

This year, its revenues are all the more important for covering the rebuilding costs estimated to be tens of billions of dollars, Kaan Sahinalp, a representative of foreign tourism companies in Türkiye, told Xinhua.

In 2022, the country welcomed more than 51 million tourists, said tourism and Culture minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy. That brought in 46 billion U.S. dollars in revenues, a 53.4 percent surge from 2021, the Turkish Statistical Institute said in late January.

Earlier this month, Ersoy said foreign arrivals are expected to reach 60 million in 2023, which would translate into 56 billion dollars of income.

“The companies that I represent think that this year will be better than the past year, as reservations are increasing,” Sahinalp said.

Speaking of market sentiment, he said “there was an initial shock and hesitation from clients abroad, but now we can see that the mood has gone.” ■

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