Turkey welcomes influx of tourists from Latin America

Turkey welcomed around 21.64 million tourists in the first seven months of this year – a 25 percent increase year-on-year.

Foreign visitors from South America have joined the upward trend of visiting Turkey, as the country has seen an influx of foreign tourists this year. Sector representatives have praised the developments in the industry, suggesting that good news is going to continue with tourists from all over the world coming to Turkey.

The number of tourists coming from South America in the first seven months of this year has registered an increase of 74.23 percent to reach 138,493, with most of them arriving from Argentina and Brazil.

Turkey saw the number of foreign visitors coming to the country increase by nearly 25 percent from January to July this year, the Culture and Tourism Ministry announced Wednesday.

Around 21.64 million tourists visited the country in the said period, compared to 17.3 million in the same period last year. The month of July saw the arrival of 5.7 million foreigners - an 11.7 percent year-on-year rise.

Russians accounted for over 15 percent, or 3.3 million visitors in the first seven months of this year, followed by Germans with around 11 percent, or 2.3 million, and Iranians with 6 percent, or 1.3 million visitors. Istanbul, Turkey's largest city by population and one of its top tourist draws, and the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya recorded the greatest number of foreign arrivals, 7.5 million and 6.7 million, respectively.

Firuz Bağlıkaya, chairman of the Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) said miraculous things were happing and that the tourism season was progressing better than expected.

Even though not announced yet, Bağlıkaya said they expect the foreign exchange inflow to exceed $15 billion in the said period.

Osman Ayık, head of the Turkey Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) said efforts and studies related to Latin American countries have been carried out for a long time.

He said that tourists from these countries are especially interested in one of Turkey's most famous touristic destinations, Cappadocia, a region famous for its fairy chimneys, underground cities, rock-carved monasteries and hot-air balloon tours.

The TÜROFED head noted that the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) initiating flights and increasing frequency had a big effect on the increase.

The number of visitors coming from South American countries increased by 54.1 percent year-on-year in July to some 26,327.

Ayık said there were those who came for faith tourism, and were interested especially in Istanbul and the famed ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey's picturesque Aegean region.

Turkish Airlines' flights from Istanbul to Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires and Brazil's Sao Paulo have contributed significantly to the increase in the number of tourists arriving from these countries and them topping the list among the nations from Latin America.

Argentina led the way in the first seven months of this year with 41,852 - a 61.46 year-on-year increase, followed by Brazil with 41,442 - an increase of 68.7 percent compared to the same period of last year and Columbia with 28,618 - a 121 percent year-on-year rise.

Among others, the number of visitors coming from Mexico increased by 103 percent to 18,332, while the same figure from Chile and Venezuela rose by 66.46 percent and 40.46 percent to 7,922 and 4,718, respectively.

Meanwhile, according to the figures released by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Poland was the country that saw the highest increase in the number of tourists coming to Turkey in the January-July period of this year. The number of Polish tourists arriving in Turkey surged by 130 percent to some 350,807.

The same figure stood at 119,000 and 152,000 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Moreover, the number of tourists coming from China also reached significant figures, as around 225,000 Chinese visited the country in the first seven months of this year - an 88.77 percent year-on-year increase.

Among others, the number of tourists arriving from India in the same period increased by 95.12 percent, while the number of Japanese tourists rose by 76.70 percent.

Good relations with Qatar resulted with a significant rise in the number of Qataris arriving in Turkey. The figure stood at around 52,851 in the first seven months of this year - a 123 percent increase compared to the same period of last year.

The CEO of Turkish conglomerate Limak Holding Nihat Özdemir was quoted by Anadolu Agency (AA) as saying that 2018 was a very good year in terms of tourism. "I can say that tourists from all parts of the world, Europeans, Russians, and Arabs have rushed to Turkey. We are having a very good season."

He also noted that in the past, Antalya was first that came to mind in terms of tourism, however, other Turkish holiday resorts such as Bodrum, Çeşme and Kuşadası were boosting their share in the tourism industry and have recently covered a significant distance on the way to becoming tourism centers.

"Besides local tourists, the increase in the number of foreign visitors is increasing Bodrum's value in terms of tourism each day. We are well aware of this value," Özdemir said.

The Turkish government set a target of 40 million tourists and $32 billion in tourism revenue for 2018.

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 the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

Turkey has targets of 50 million tourists and $50 billion in income by 2023, according to private sector representatives and officials.

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