Global tourism has seen a recovery with more people traveling in 2017. The number of travelers around the world last year reached around 1.2 to 1.3 billion, a 90 million rise from 2016 which saw 1.23 billion people moving around the globe. The figure stood at 1.18 billion in 2015. Citing this recovery trend in tourism worldwide, Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW) President Michael Frenzel highlighted that tourism is growing faster than many other industries and referred to the growing markets such as Asia, Europe and Russia. Regarding his expectations for the Turkish market, Frenzel underscored that worldwide Turkey will be one of the winning destinations of booming tourism.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Sabah, BTW President Frenzel elaborated on the recovery of the global tourism industry after seeing a decline in 2016 due to terror attacks that badly affected tourism both in European and eastern Mediterranean destinations.
Frenzel, who is also the chairman emeritus of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), said, "We have just received the numbers and it is very good news that the tourism industry all over the world has grown 7 percent. There is nearly 1.2 to 1.3 billion people traveling cross-border and this is 90 million people more than the 2016 figures." In an explanation accounting for this rise, Frenzel remarked that besides all the problems in the world, either terror attacks or natural disasters, people are traveling because it is part of the effort to thwart the negative impact of such unfortunate events.
In reference to the growing markets where traveler numbers follow an upward curve, Frenzel listed Asia, Europe and Russia and said, "Tourism is growing really fast, faster than many other industries."
Regarding the predictions how Turkey could expand its share from the pie, the BTW president underscored that global growth in the industry is very good news for Turkey.
"As we know it, over the last two years, there was a certain decline but we have very good news. Early bookings in German are extremely strong this year," Frenzel said. Referring to the recent announcement of his former company,
German tourism giant TUI, the BTW president emphatically pointed out that TUI announced that their bookings for the summer of 2018 have increased by 70 percent compared to last year. Therefore, he said, an additional flight capacity of 100,000 people will be added to the flights from Germany to Turkey.
"And I hope that not only TUI but different operators will also announce more increases for the Turkish market," he said.
When asked about the goal of the Turkish tourism sector to host 4 million visitors from Germany, he indicated that the figure is very plausible since the current numbers point to a higher potential.
A leading tourism expert, Frenzel said he has experienced many swings between eastern and Mediterranean areas.
"If there some problem in the eastern part, always western part will take the lead," he said, adding that now the western part of the region is going under a difficult time with the situation in Spain and the drastic increase of flight prices is due to Air Berlin filing bankruptcy.
Citing a personal experience, he recounted that when he tried to book a ticket to Mallorca for a family trip of three to four people, the prices were extremely high up to 3,000 to 4,000 euros, which he opined is due to Air Berlin going bankrupt.
Now, with the recovering eastern Mediterranean tourism, which is also being observed in Egypt, Frenzel said, "I am pretty sure that Turkey will be one of the winning destinations in the world if nothing big happens and I am very optimistic about Turkey based on what is now happening here."
Stating that he has been to Turkey maybe a hundred times both for vacation and professional purposes, Frenzel stressed that the country is a fascinating destination with really friendly people, high hospitality and five-star hotels with high quality.
Noting that the market in the region is very competitive, he said that the price and quality balance must be optimum. When asked about the price-quality balance in Turkey, Frenzel replied that the price and quality balance in Turkey is excellent and that some high-quality hotels offer really low prices.
The BTW president highlighted that compared to European destinations; the prices offered in Turkey are much lower. He later noted that rather than low prices, tourists look for quality, which compensates for what they pay, and Turkey offers both.
In that sense, the country has a highly competitive market. He advised that the prices also need normalizing but warned against overdoing it, calling for a good balance. Since Turkish hotels, compared to others in the region, are really family-friendly and modern with high quality, there is room for adjusting the prices, Frenzel said.
FRENZEL: 'It is all about perception'
Elaborating on the return of European tourists after the unfortunate year of 2016, which was hit hard by terror attacks and a coup attempt, as well as strained ties between Turkey and European countries, Frenzel highlighted that if something happens in a certain area, say a terror attack, everywhere suffers.
"We all suffered with France, Berlin, London and Istanbul. But if people react and do not travel anymore, this is what the terrorists want," he said, emphatically stating that nowhere is safe. "People realize that there is no absolute safety. Nowhere is absolutely safe. Germany has been attacked, as well as London, Paris and Belgium."
In reference to the recovery in the European market, which coincided with the elimination of terror threats in the country and improving relations with European countries, Frenzel said it is all about perception and how bilateral efforts have succeeded in changing the perception of Turkey, which was jeopardized by terror attacks in 2016.
"It is all about perception. Facts account for only one point, but if the perception is going only in one direction because people think there is always terror or something they really are unsure of, then they make their choices based on that perception," he said.
With regard to the change of that perception, he said, "It already happened, the change of perception, and I am optimistic that it will continue."
A look at the tourism figures since 2014
According to the data of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), 2014 peaked in the number of tourists visiting Turkey as the country hosted 41.6 million visitors from around the world and the tourism sector generated a sum of $34.3 million.
The historic high of 2017 recorded a decrease and fell to 31.4 million, which was followed by a 30 percent decline in 2016 when a total of 25.3 million tourists came to Turkey. In 2015 and 2016, tourism revenues were recorded at $31.4 billion and $22.1 billion, respectively.
Although the final results have not been revealed, Turkey is estimated to have hosted around 32 to 33 million visitors in 2017 while generating an income of $25 to $26 billion.
36M visitors, $28B in revenues aimed in 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Lütfi Elvan informed that the Turkish tourism sector aims to host 36 million visitors in 2018 while eyeing revenue of $28 billion in his speech at the Annual Review Meeting of Turkish Tourism Investors Association (TYD). He also noted that the sectors have received $50 billion in investments over the last three decades.
Elaborating on the contribution of tourism to the economy and its interaction with various sectors, Minister Elvan said foreign currency inflow, contribution to employment, social benefits, and tax revenues render tourism are essential for economic development.
"Tourism will also reduce the current account deficit," Elvan remarked.
Investors call for transformation in tourism
TYD Chair Oya Narin, who also delivered a speech at the event, confirmed that bringing a new momentum to the sector will be enabled with the composition of a strategy that examines the changing consumer needs, target markets and competitive destinations.
"Therefore, in the Middle-Term Program that covers the period of 2018-2020, we call for the renewal of tourism strategy to increase the variety of target markets and type of tourism," she said.
The transformation, Narin said, foresees branding, diversification and destination-oriented management while requiring a full transformation of the physical infrastructure of tourism and review of outdated tourism laws.
"This transformation also necessitates changes that will bring 60, 70, and 80 million tourists to Turkey and investments that will increase the competition and comfort of our facilities," she said, emphasizing that tourism should be treated in the same way as manufacturing and benefit from the incentives provided for exporters.