ISTANBUL: The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell by a quarter in October, official data showed on Tuesday, the smallest contraction in seven months as arrivals from Russia showed a marked recovery after Ankara restored ties with Moscow.
Tourism, which adds about $30 billion to gross domestic product each year, has been hammered after a spate of bombings this year, including an attack on Istanbul’s main airport, and a failed coup in July, scared away Western European tourists.
But the drop-off in Russian tourists, who traditionally flock to Turkey’s Mediterranean beaches and make pilgrimages to its Byzantium-era Orthodox churches, had been particularly painful. Relations soured after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria last year. Ties were formally restored in August, sparking hopes for an improvement in tourism.
“With the lifting of Russian sanctions it appears that side has to a large extent returned to normal,” said Deniz Cicek, an economist at QNB Finansbank.
Still, a full recovery in tourism would require bigger changes.
“It is necessary for security worries to lessen and that is dependent on geopolitical developments,” he told Reuters.
A total of 2.45 million tourists visited Turkey in October, the data from the Tourism Ministry showed, representing a 25.79 per cent drop from the previous year.
The number of tourists from Russia dropped 2.8 per cent year-on-year. In the previous month they had fallen by more than 60 per cent.
The numbers from Western Europe remain grim, with the number British and German visitors, two traditionally big sources of tourism, both down by more than 30 per cent.