Recovering from the losses incurred in 2016 due to a series of events, including terror attacks and a failed coup in the summer, Turkish tourism is preparing to come back strong and reach peak figures it saw in 2014.
The data of the early bookings for Turkish hotels revealed by tourism agencies and tourism operators both at home and abroad point to significant increases.
In light of the promising data, sector professionals expect a buoyant season this summer and want to compensate for the previous losses. While early bookings by local tourists have increased by 30 percent compared to January 2017, reservations by foreign tourists have seen a rise of up to 70 percent.
Koray Küçükyılmaz, the general manager of tatilsepeti.com - an online vacation booking portal - informed that early bookings by local tourists point to a 30 percent increase.
"This year, we will see a considerable rise in the demands of both local and foreign tourists. It will be difficult to find vacant rooms in the high season," Küçükyılmaz said.
After the gloomy years of 2015 and 2016, he said the Turkish tourism garnered a strong recovery and 2018 will be a very good year.
He highlighted that significant rises have also been observed in early reservations from Europe, Russia and other alternative markets. He emphasized that an increase of up to 70 percent has been recorded while early reservations were on a decline last year in January.
Küçükyılmaz also underscored that the number of tourists expected this year may be the same as the 2017 figures or exceed it, adding that the number of visitors from Europe and other countries will also soar.
"We will see double-digit increases in the number of foreign tourists to Turkey compared to last year," he said, recalling that the country hosted more than 40 million foreigners in the peak year of 2014 while generating more than $30 billion in tourism revenues.
In 2017, around 32.4 million tourists visited Turkey and tourism revenues hit $26 billion. In line with these figures, Küçükyılmaz said, "I believe that the number of tourists will surge by 20 percent and reach 38 million because Turkey attracts visitors both from eastern and western destinations."
European tourists who have abandoned Turkey and resorted to alternative markets for the last few years could not receive high quality and affordable service that they find in Turkey, he said.
"As you know, thanks to the measures Turkey has taken over the last year, terror attacks have ceased to occur. Therefore, tourists have started to come to Turkey again," he added.
Küçükyılmaz underlined that it is difficult for tourists to find the affordability and quality of Turkish hotels anywhere else; therefore, the country is the optimum choice for middle-class families.
With regard to the domestic market, Küçükyılmaz noted that local tourism has grown 15 percent. He mentioned that despite it being difficult to make predictions about the number of local tourists since the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) has not disclosed the numbers; he believes the number of local tourists who vacationed in Turkey exceeded 10 million. Tourism experts, however, expect an expansion in the market up to 15 to 20 percent.
"It is likely to have capacity problems this year because the vacation period of local tourists is the high season that covers June 15 to Sept. 15. This year, we will witness a significant increase in the demands of local and foreign visitors. It will be hard to find rooms in hotels, therefore, early booking is a must," Küçükyılmaz said.
He said that bookings by local tourists increased by around 30 percent in January compared to the same period last year, and that the early booking option has gradually turned into a habit for Turkish tourists. He also said the said 30 percent increase cannot spread throughout the year, noting that they expect an annual increase of 15 to 20 percent.
Pointing out that the most preferred places for early reservations are Bodrum, and all districts of Antalya, particularly Kemer, Belek, and Alanya, Küçükyılmaz said coastal areas such as the Aegean region are the most preferred areas for early reservations, adding that Turkish tourists have recently turned their attention to Side.
"That is because European tourists previously occupied the area," he continued. "In the last couple of years, hotels in Side have begun to accept domestic tourists since they [European tourists] do not come. The domestic market customer prefers to go to Side upon discovery."
Noting that particularly ski tourism and thermal tourism are on the rise in Turkey, Küçükyılmaz said there is an increase in reservations of 50 percent at ski hotels. He also added that tourists now have a tendency to vacation all year round and that the thermal centers in all regions of the country attract tourists.
He mentioned that those who want to be in touch with nature go to Bolu and the Black Sea region, suggesting that people have a serious tendency toward cultural tourism.
Stressing that there is a growing interest in all parts of Turkey, and that people even participate in the daily gastronomy tours, Küçükyılmaz said people want to see alternative destinations.