Leaving tumultuous periods behind, Turkey's tourism sector has made a fast start in 2018, as the recent positive early booking figures and demand from abroad suggest that the country could close this year with a record 40 million tourists and over $30 billion in tourism revenue. Taking into account the favorable demands from Europe, which is defined as the country's main market, and the Commonwealth of Independent States, tourism experts expect 2018 to be a year of high figures. Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Chairman Firuz Bağlıkaya said as a result of a favorable demand from abroad this year, the sector expects to see 40 million tourists, an all-time high.
Bağlıkaya also added that within the scope of the tourism revenue at the end of 2018, which they expect to exceed 30 billion this year, they anticipate that the average tourism income per capita will reach $750. While the country hosted 36.8 million foreigners in 2014 and 36.3 million in 2015, the figure decreased sharply to 25.3 million in 2016 but rose again to 32.4 million last year, according to Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data.
Bağlıkaya said the number of foreign visitors, which increased by 34.91 percent year-on-year in the first two months, indicates the target of 40 million tourists would be achieved this year.
Turkey welcomed 3 million foreign visitors in the first two months of 2018 during its winter period, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
"Demands from Germany and Russia, which are Turkey's main tourism market, are very positive. Germany's demands increased by 60 percent and Russia by 30 percent," Bağlıkaya added.
Turkey also expects the number of visitors from U.K. and the Netherlands to rise in 2018, Bağlıkaya said, adding that Turkey's southern province Antalya and the Aegean region are the leading tourist destinations in the country.
Previously, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Hüseyin Yayman said Turkey had entered a period of stagnation in the tourism sector after the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ)'s defeated coup in 2016 but the sector improved in 2017.
"Turkey's 2018 target is 40 million foreign tourists," Yayman said.
Etem Hakan Duran, president of the Professional Hotel Managers Association of Turkey, also said reservations had increased in 2018 compared with last year.
"Turkey's Europe tourism market will rise 15-20 percent and the country will host 38 million guests in this year."
Last week, Hotel Association of Turkey (TÜROB) Chairman Timur Bayındır said Turkey expects to see an increase of 20 percent in the number of Russian tourists coming to the country in 2018. According to the German tourism operator TUI, early bookings by Russians for the summer season in Turkey rose by 150 percent. Early bookings via Tez Tour and Pegas Turistik recorded an increase of two times compared to the last season, Bayındır informed. According to British flight search app Skyscanner data, April 30 - May 9 flight bookings from Russia to Istanbul have increased by 102 percent compared to the same period last year.
Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Turkey's 2023 targets for the tourism sector are 50 million tourists and $50 billion in income.
Besides, the seasonal financial support provided by the government to travel agencies is also expected to contribute to the sector's performance this year. The amount of flight support granted by the government to travel agencies for carrying tourists to Turkey has reached around TL 786.2 million ($191.7 million) since 2015, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry data.