Turke welcomed more than 31 million foreign visitors during the first eight months of this year, according to new data released by the Culture and Tourism Ministry Monday. The number of foreigners visiting the country soared 14.7% in the January-August period on an annual basis, according to the data. The Mediterranean resort city of Antalya was the top destination for tourists, hosting 33.3% of all visitors – around 10.3 million. The historic metropolis of Istanbul followed with 32.2% or over 9.98 million foreign visitors in the same period. Northwestern Edirne province, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, received the third-highest number of foreigners, with 2.99 million during the first eight months. Russians accounted for 15.6% of the visitors – more than 4.8 million – followed by Germans at some 10.9% with 3.38 million visitors, and the U.K. with 5.97% at 1.85 million.
Most foreigners – 20.7 million – came to Turkey via air travel, while roadways were chosen by nearly 6.1 million foreigners, seaways by over 890,000 and trains by 10,475.
Last year, some 39.5 million foreigners entered Turkey, up from 32.4 million in 2017. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2019 data, Turkey ranks sixth in the world in terms of the number of tourists and 14th in terms of tourism income.
Tourism is a major source of income for Turkey. Tourists in 2018 brought in some $29.5 billion, according to official data.
The new data comes just days after Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy outlined Turkey's tourism strategy for 2023 on Friday.
The new tourism strategy targets over 75 million tourists and $65 billion in tourism revenue by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Turkish Republic. The figures were revised from 50 million tourists and $50 billion in tourism income.
Outlining the details of the new strategy, Minister Ersoy said Turkey is adopting a new income and market-oriented strategy for sustainable growth in the tourism sector.
He said the average expenditure per capita is targeted to hit $867 in 2023. The average expenditure per capita was $647 in 2018, as foreigners spent $617 per capita and Turkish citizens spent $801 per capita, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). Ersoy noted that the country is aiming for an average per night revenue of $86 by 2023.
The ministry's promotion budget also carries major importance as part of the new strategy.
Turkey recently established the Tourism Promotion and Development Agency to promote and further develop tourism in the country. The ministry's promotion budget, which was $18 million in 2018, was increased to $72 million this year as a result of policy change. The budget with the Turkey Tourism Promotion and Development Agency is planned to be raised to $180 million over the next year and to $220 million by 2023.
On the other hand, the Hotel Association of Turkey (TÜROB) said the hotel occupancy rate was 67.3% during the first eight months of 2019, up 1.2% from the same period last year.
Occupancy in Istanbul was 73.7%, and 66.6% in Antalya during the same period, according to TUROB data.
The average daily rate for rooms and revenue per room rose 11.5% and 13.4%, reaching 79.60 euros ($88.40) and 53.60 euros between January and July.
6.4 MILLION FOREIGNERS IN AUGUST
Meanwhile, the number of foreign visitors climbed 17.2% to reach 6.3 million people year-on-year in August.
Russians at 1.08 million and Germans at 713,527 were the top nationalities of foreign visitors in the month, followed by the British at 421,466.
During the month, Antalya, drawing 2.48 million people, was the top destination for foreigners, while Istanbul and Edirne welcomed 1.54 million and nearly 480,000 visitors, respectively.
The hotel occupancy rate was 79.5% in August, up 4.9% compared to the same month in 2018, while the average daily rate for rooms and revenue per room rose 21.9% and 27.9% to reach 105 euros and 83.4 euros in the month.
In August, while Turkey's hotel occupancy rate was over the European countries' average, Istanbul was among the top 10 cities with an 87.7% hotel occupancy rate.
"The UEFA Super Cup Final in Istanbul was one of the factors of this increase," TÜROB said.
The all-English final on Sept. 14 brought tens of thousands of fans from across Europe to Istanbul, while millions watched the game on TV. A delight for football lovers, the match also created economic activity for local businesses, tourism professionals and advertisers.
The final at Istanbul's Vodafone Park Stadium, which featured 2019 Champions League winner Liverpool and 2019 Europa League winner Chelsea, saw a hard-fought competition throughout. Liverpool eventually lifted the cup after beating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 2-2, following overtime.