All-time favorite destination Istanbul ranks third most-visited city in Europe

BETÜL ALAKENT
Istanbul
Published 16.12.2018 23:40
Updated 17.12.2018 08:00

Turkey's cultural and financial hub Istanbul ranked third in Europe among the most-visited cities this year, while coming in twelfth place in the world, according to a survey conducted by the London-based research and statistics firm Euromonitor International.

Stressing that hotel occupancy rates have almost reached an all-time high, tourism professionals said the rates hit 95 percent for New Year's Eve. Having lived through one of the most challenging periods of its history in 2016 and 2017 due to the coup attempt and multiple terrorist attacks, Istanbul's hotels have taken their share of the positive climate in tourism this year. Hosting tourists mostly from Middle East, Iran and Russia for the past two years, Turkey's most populous city has become the new favorite destination of European tourists this year. Diversity in the tourism profile raised hotel occupancy rates to around 75 percent in November, and this figure is expected to exceed 80 percent by the end of the year. The increase in the occupancy rates raised hotel fees over $80 in four-star hotels, $100 in five-star hotels and $200 in the luxury hotels. Having completed their final preparations for New Year's Eve, Istanbul's hotels expect an occupancy rate of 95 percent. Meanwhile, tourism representatives noted that hotels in Istanbul caught up with 2014 and 2015 figures in occupancy.

Istanbul Tourism Association (ISTTA) Chairman İbrahim Halil Korkmaz said Istanbul has once again become the favorite destination in the world, adding that hotel occupancy rates in the city exceeded 80 percent. Pointing out that hotels in the city caught up with the 2014 and 2015 figures in occupancy but not in fees, Korkmaz suggested that hotels must have some faith and get bolder.

Movenpick Hotel Istanbul Golden Horn General Manager Ahmet Arslan said the hotels must act boldly on fees. "The sector is not bold in terms of increasing prices," Arslan added. "If you raise the fee and another hotel operating with the same classifications fails to achieve the occupancy rate, then prices fall in panic, which affects other hotels."

Noting that hotels achieved 75-80 percent occupancy, Arslan said they would start welcoming New Year's groups as of Dec. 20, which corresponds to school break in Saudi Arabia. "The call for a boycott in Saudi Arabia has not made a difference. Our hotel is still in high demand. Our occupancy rate will exceed 95 percent after Dec. 20," he added.

Wyndham Grand Kalamış General Manager Mustafa Alparslan said the average occupancy rate in December would be around 75-80 percent, highlighting that reservations for New Year's Eve are quite busy. "We prepared New Year's accommodation packages including three major concerts and a gala dinner. Our packages were in high demand. Our occupancy rate has already reached 99 percent," Alparslan said, adding they received bookings from Russia, the Balkans and European countries, with Germany taking the lead for the whole year. Elite World Hotel CEO Ünsal Şınık, on the other hand, pointed to an over 80 percent occupancy rate in hotels in the central Taksim area, underlining that while diversity in the market reflected positively in the occupancy rates, they now welcome tourists from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, as well as the Middle East.

Titanic Hotels Chairman Mehmet Aygün said that promotional activities to diversify the market finally bore fruit. "In addition to Middle Easterners and Europeans, tourists from India and China have turned to Istanbul as well. Compared to the previous year, diversity raised fees by 10 percent, in addition to occupancy rates," he concluded.

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