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Stormy Turkish currency brings the sunshine out for Gulf tourists

Travel to Turkey from the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain has greatly increased since the beginning of the year

Gulf News

Dubai: The plunging Turkish currency has seen tourism interest from the Gulf skyrocket, recently released figures show.

The lira hit a fresh low of 6.4 to the US dollar on Wednesday, thanks to soaring inflation and concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grasp on the country’s economy.

As a result, holidaymakers from the Gulf, where local currencies such as the Emirati dirham are pegged to the stronger dollar, have enjoyed a summer of discounted trips to the country.

Data published by travel technology firm Travelport in April highlighted how Turkey, which has historically had close ties with the Middle East, was rapidly becoming a popular destination for UAE tourists.

The value of the lira has slipped consistently since the beginning of 2018, down around 42 per cent since January.

In its study, Travelport named Turkey as the sixth fastest-growing destination for UAE travellers on its platform.

The country, which climbed in popularity by 11 per cent, saw 5,765 more bookings from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, than the previous 12 months.

According to Google, searches made from the UAE for flights to Turkey have grown steadily since the beginning of this year, peaking around Eid Al Adha in mid-August.

Similarly, searches for Turkish hotels from the UAE peaked in July, around the same time the lira had sunk to its record low of around 4.6 to the dollar.

Last week, travel platform Wego released its MENA Traveller Destination Leaderboards for the second quarter of 2018, highlighting the rise in popularity of Turkey as a destination among travellers from the Middle East and North Africa.

Turkey came fourth in the list, with the country “looking especially affordable for GCC-based travellers this year, owing to continued currency weakness,” according to Wego.

The report added that recent tourism numbers for Turkey reflected strong demand from MENA travellers.

Due to its weak currency, Turkey became one of the cheapest places in the world to shop for luxury items this summer, for those with foreign currency to spend. The same was true for hotel rooms and restaurants, and much of the entertainment the country has to offer.

This was especially true for Gulf travellers, where all local currencies are pegged to the greenback.

With the dollar performing well as the lira slid, hundreds of thousands of the Gulf’s residents began to look at Turkey as a particularly attractive destination.

One group that jumped at the chance for a bargain was the Kuwaitis: Some 90,590 travellers from the small Gulf country arrived in to Turkey’s many international airports from January 1, to May 30, 2018, according to the latest data released by the Turkish Consulate General Cultural and Information office for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

No country in the region sends more travellers to Turkey than Kuwait, for a variety of reasons: Business, medical, and leisure tourism all feature heavily as reasons for travel.

In fact, Kuwait equals 54 per cent of the total tourist outflow from the GCC to Turkey.

Elsewhere, Bahrain saw its travellers to Turkey increase by 30.6 per cent from January to May, according to the Turkish Consulate General’s office.

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