The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey rebounded strongly in May from a year ago due to the so-called base effect as coronavirus-related travel restrictions are gradually eased across the globe.
Some 936,282 tourists arrived last month, jumping by a whopping 3,038% from 29,829 in May 2020, data by the Culture and Tourism Ministry showed Friday.
The figure was still a fraction of the 4 million who came in 2019 before the pandemic hit.
Turkey began closing its borders and restricting activity when its first COVID-19 case was recorded in March 2020.
Month on month, the arrivals surged in May despite a 17-day full lockdown to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Arrivals in the January-May period were still down 14.27% to 3.68 million, compared to 4.29 million a year ago, the data showed.
Some 12.75 million tourists arrived in the five-month period of 2019 before the pandemic hit.
Ukrainians topped the list among nations in May with 236,000, followed by Germany with 95,000, Bulgaria with 57,000 and Iran and Iraq with around 44,000 each.
The country’s top tourist source, the Russians led the way in the first five months despite a two-month suspension in flights imposed by Moscow due to concerns about a surge in COVID-19 cases in April.
Thousands of Russian tourists began arriving in Turkey this week after Moscow lifted the flight ban, boosting hopes of a revival in tourism revenues this year.
Among others, France has removed Turkey from the red list of countries on which it had imposed travel restrictions.
It ditched the mandatory 10-day quarantine process for passengers traveling from Turkey to France.
Another important market, Germany earlier this month removed Turkey from its list of high-risk countries.
Berlin this week said it would allow travelers from non-European Union countries who are fully vaccinated to enter the country from June 25, which covers Turkish citizens who have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Some 571,000 tourists from Russia came from January through May, accounting for 15.5% of all arrivals in the period.
They were followed by Ukraine with 423,000, Germany with 280,000 and Iran with 238,000, the data showed.
The hit to tourism has hurt economic growth and exacerbated a rise in the current account deficit.
While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, tourism has been clobbered: In 2019, it brought in $34.5 billion and nearly 52 million visitors. In 2020, arrivals dropped 69% and revenues fell to about $12 billion, according to the Tourism Ministry.
Prospects have been revived by a sharp fall in daily coronavirus cases to around 5,000 from a peak of more than 60,000 in April, as well as an acceleration in vaccinations.
Turkey’s rapid inoculation drive has seen more than 1 million doses being delivered a day over the recent week.
The tourism ministry expects at least 17 million arrivals and around $20 billion (TL 173.87 billion) in related income this year.