Turkey hosted 5.4 million foreign visitors in the first seven months of 2020, the country’s Culture and Tourism Ministry said on Monday.
The figures decreased 78% year-on-year in the January-July period from 24.7 million due to measures to stem the spread of the COVID19 pandemic, the official data showed.
After appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread all around the world, causing millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Efforts to curb the virus’s spread — focusing on people staying at home and avoiding most human contact — have hit economies hard, especially the tourism and travel sectors.
After February, Turkey postponed the tourism season to June and canceled a number of events such as fairs and expos.
With a normalization process starting in June, tourist facilities in Turkey reopened with rigorous measures to ensure safety and avoid the virus.
From January to July, Istanbul continued to be Turkey’s top tourist draw, attracting nearly 50.07% of foreign visitors — around 2.7 million.
Edirne in northwestern Turkey, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, saw the second-highest number of foreigners, with 817,292.
The Mediterranean resort city of Antalya followed them with 9.8% or 648,768 foreign visitors.
Germans accounted for over 11.39% or nearly 2.67 million of the visitors, followed by Bulgarians with 8.33%, Georgians with 6.39%, Russians with 6.12%, and Ukrainians with 4.87%.
The hotel occupancy rate across Turkey fell to 33% in January-July, decreasing 49.3% from the same period last year, the Turkish Hotel Association (TUROB) data showed.
Revenue per available room (RevPAR) dropped 58.3% to €20.1 (some $24) in the first seven months of this year while and average daily rate (ADR) for rooms reached €61.2 ($72.4), TUROB said.
In July, the country welcomed 932,927 foreign visitors, down from 6.6 million in July 2019, but up from 214,768 in the previous month.
Last year, more than 45 million foreigners entered Turkey, up from nearly 39.5 million in 2018.
In a live interview with the private channel NTV, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the country can see 15 million or above tourists by end-2020 if air traffic is not disrupted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We may receive more than $11 billion of tourism income this year,” Ersoy stated.
Noting that the country welcomed 6.5 million tourist both international and domestic, Ersoy said the figure includes 1.2 million Turkish citizens resident abroad.
“The summer season, which started late this year, seems to end late this year,” he presumed.
He also underlined that people tend to prefer their own countries for holiday due to the pandemic.
“We decided to further improve our Safe Tourism Certification Program which aimed to quell health concerns,” Eresin said, adding: “We want to the program to be permanent even in the post-pandemic period while increasing its criteria.”
Some 4,900 facilities have been certified so far in Turkey, the official said.
The Safe Tourism Certification, launched in collaboration with Turkey’s Foreign, Culture and Tourism, and Transportation Ministries, covers a broad range of safety measures in transport, accommodation, and health conditions for tourists and hospitality employees alike.
The certificate, issued by international certification institutions, validates the execution of strict health and hygiene requirements at airlines, airports, and other transport facilities, as well as in accommodation outlets and food and beverage venues.