The touristic hot spot of Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera is expecting to see an influx of foreign tourists this year despite the coronavirus pandemic.
As preparations for the tourist season pick up steam, the southwestern tourist destination hopes to see three times more international arrivals this year compared to 2020.
“We’re getting a positive response from Russian and Ukrainian tourists this year,” Ahmet Aras, mayor of Bodrum, told reporters in Bodrum, highlighting that he expected at least two to three times more foreign tourists this summer.
Bodrum, where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea, is also a tourism hub for Britons, Germans, Belgians, and Polish and Dutch people.
The area features a picturesque natural environment, stretches of blue sea in all its hues, modern and well-equipped yacht marina facilities, 3,500-year-old historical sites and beautiful sandy beaches to relax under the sun.
“Bodrum is a place that makes you fall in love and you want to visit this source of happiness and tranquility over and over again,” said Aras, expecting tourists from all countries to continue to choose the seaside town as their holiday destination this summer.
His remarks came as a flight from Russia with 212 tourists onboard arrived on Sunday at the Milas-Bodrum Airport, marking the first direct international flight to the city this year.
Iclal Kayaoğlu, head of the airport, said the staff was delighted with the arrival of the first international tourists at the airport as authorities organized a welcome ceremony for the travelers when they landed after a 3.5-hour journey from Vnukovo Airport near Moscow.
A water salute was given to the flight to mark the inaugural journey of the season.
“We’re happy to see Russian tourists here. We hope more Russian tourists come this year. We’re very hopeful about this season,” Kayaoğlu said.
She told Anadolu Agency (AA) that officials expect a nearly fourfold increase in Russian tourists in 2021.
The tourism season in Bodrum started earlier despite the pandemic that hit the industry across the world as guidelines related to overseas travels remain uncertain in many countries.
“We’re expecting around 260,000 tourists this year,” Kayaoğlu noted, citing the forecast of major Turkish tour operator Anex Tour.
She expects 60 direct flights from Russia alone in April and 5,000 flights from across 38 countries by August.
“That’s a very positive picture for us. Because last year, we started to receive tourists in May or June, but this year we are receiving them in April. I can assure you that the tourist arrivals in Milas-Bodrum Airport will be 50% more than last year,” she added.
She went on to say that though the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 measures continues, officials want to stay optimistic.
As Turkey never fully closed its border since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Bodrum expects to open the summer season in June at full capacity.
Despite a fall in domestic luxury tourism revenues across the globe last year due to the pandemic, Aras said Bodrum enjoys an upward trend in welcoming more high-net-worth individuals.
The town is one of the best tourism destinations in Turkey and is ready to offer luxury tourism services, he said.
“Bodrum is full of boutique hotels. You cannot find multistory hotels with 1,000-bed capacities. All our hotels are boutique-type hotels. Where you can get distinct, unique and exclusive service,” said the mayor.
Bodrum has all the elements of luxury tourism – safe and personalized hotels, flexible travel options, customized and private tours, unique experiences and smooth travel, he noted.
“This isn’t a town where you have to rush, running here and there. This also is not a town where you just close yourself into a big hotel compound. You can live a luxurious daily life here. You can feel the natural beauty, walk through the streets, engage with locals, walk along the beach roads, rent yachts, have short or long boat tours.”
Bodrum is a top destination for local tourists as well, Aras underlined. “We received more local tourists in 2020 compared to previous years ... If you visit Bodrum, you’re sure to fall in love with this town.”
Bodrum is also a popular destination for Indians wanting an unforgettable wedding ceremony.
“Despite the pandemic situation, we hosted six big wedding ceremonies from India. We are in talks with several organizers to secure more such big wedding ceremonies this year and in the coming years,” the mayor said.
“We also expect more tourists from the Pacific region.”
Bodrum airport operates direct flights to 38 countries, mostly in Europe.
“Now, we expect some international direct flights from the Asia-Pacific region because we believe that direct flights will bring more luxury tourists,” Aras concluded.
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