The recovery in Turkey's tourism industry is beginning to be felt in every area of the sector. The cruise industry, which has suffered for the past three years, has seen the signs of strong revival this year. Having hosted 2.2 million people in 2015, the sector experienced a major blow as the number of cruise tourists coming to Turkish port cities fell to around 200,000 last year. The representatives of the industry expect a 30 percent growth this year. The world's leading cruise companies have recently announced that they have included Turkey in their programs for this season.
The U.S.-based Royal Caribbean is taking the first step to come to Turkey. The company will come to Kuşadası on May 15 with the Azamara Journey, regarded as a vessel in the most luxurious class of ships.
Royal Caribbean Turkey Communications and Marketing Director Cihangir Canıyılmaz said the vessel will enter the port with its 850 passengers from the U.S. and the U.K.
"Turkey has entered our program again. The number of our cruises will increase even more in the coming years," Canıyılmaz said.Canımılmaz stated that the price per person ranges between $5,000 and $10,000 in Azamara Journey, adding that two employees serve each person on board.
Erkunt Öner, the chairman of Tura Tourism, one of the leading names of the cruise tourism, said the sector has begun to recover. "We expect a growth rate of 30 percent this year and 50 percent in 2019. We aim to reach 1 million cruise tourists in 2020 and break a new record in 2021," Öner said, noting that the giant ship companies including Turkey in their 2019 program.
Underlining the importance of the arrival of cruise ships in Turkey, he said the cruise sector went through challenging periods for the last few years, but the gradual recovery has begun. He stressed that they expect huge returns in 2019 and especially in 2020 and Royal Caribbean's arrival in Turkey with one of its most luxurious ships is a welcoming development.
"MSC Cruise previously announced that it will resume its cruises to Turkey in 2019. The cruise supports provided by the state will also be of great benefit," Öner added.
He also indicated that negative perceptions regarding safety against Turkey were lifted and that the political perception also turned positive, pointing to the lack of a port in Istanbul as the biggest problem.
"Galataport needs to be completed as soon as possible so that Istanbul can be included in tour programs," he said.
Turkey received a share of 10 percent in cruise tourism in 2013 with 2.2 million tourists. According to the Directorate General of Merchant Marine, 274 ships came to Turkey. However, in 2017, 307 ships arrived with 306,000 tourists. It was announced that Norwegian Cruise Line will include Kuşadası in its route as of 2018 season, while the Holland America Line decided to add Turkish ports to its routes as of 2020.
MSC Turkey General Manager Necla Tuncel said three vessels arrived in Turkey each week in 2015.
"But we had to halt the arrival of the ships. From 2019, we will resume our cruises to Antalya and Izmir. From 2020, on the other hand, we expect it to continue increasingly," Tuncel continued. "MSC has investments in shipping and ports in Turkey. Their plans for future investments in Turkey also continue. They have never planned to withdraw completely from Turkey."
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