Backed by European arrivals, Antalya enjoys best post-COVID days

Foreign holidaymakers, spearheaded by Europe, continue to pour into Antalya, helping Türkiye’s Mediterranean gem have its most intense summer since the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The southern resort has seen around 8.5 million foreigners arrive so far this year, already nearing the 9 million who arrived throughout the whole of 2021. This figure peaked in 2019, dubbed the best tourism season ever, when arrivals reached 16 million, before the slump caused by the pandemic.

The big rebound this year has been driven by flocks of tourists from Europe, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, in addition to arrivals from Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine had sparked fears across the vital industry.

This summer season, Antalya is witnessing a boom in demand that has been accumulating following the pandemic, according to Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers and Investors Association (AKTOB) chair Erkan Yağcı.

Yağcı stressed they expect to approach the peak levels seen in 2019. “When we look from January to today, we have reached 90% to 95% of the 2019 figures during the high season. If it continues in this way, we can get closer to the 2019 figures,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Türkiye itself attracted over 23 million foreign visitors from January through July, surging 128% annually, according to the official data, paving the way for $37 billion in tourism revenues sought by the government.

The arrivals have been mainly backed by Russian visitors who opted for Türkiye due to Western flight restrictions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The numbers of German and British visitors also rose strongly.

“The UK is on its way to becoming a source market,” said Yağcı. “The British market has made a significant comeback. This year, we will have hosted nearly 1 million British guests in Antalya. This is extremely important.”

He stressed the country’s efforts to diversify markets, saying that “our main goals are to increase the number of tourists in other markets such as Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium. We are in a period in which our basic strategies set before the pandemic have been revived.”

From January through July, Germans were Türkiye’s top source market with 2.99 million visitors, followed by 2.2 million Russians and 1.8 million Britons, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry data.

Despite concerns over the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government raised its year-end targets last month to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in revenues, up from its earlier targets of 45 million arrivals and $35 billion in income.

The current trend has somewhat washed away the panic from the beginning of the season, said Kemer Promotion Foundation head Volkan Yorulmaz. Kemer is one of the most popular districts of Antalya.

Yorulmaz said the 8 million figure was exceeded as of the beginning of August, which he says reaffirms his expectations for 12 million by the year-end.

He highlighted that the summer season has been extended, in part due to market diversification and that they expected a buoyant November. Yorlumaz cited a big jump in markets that to some extent managed to compensate for the loss that stemmed from the Ukraine war.

“There are serious increases in Polish, Czech, Serbian, German and British tourists. This year we have seen that we should not only do tourism based on Ukraine and Russia, and that this can be achieved. It is necessary to continue this.”

Backed by the easing COVID-19 measures, the number of foreign visitors soared 94.1% to 24.71 million last year. Tourism revenues doubled to almost $25 billion but remained well below the level recorded in 2019.

Russians and Ukrainians were the country’s first and third biggest sources of visitors, respectively. Russians accounted for 19% of foreign tourists, with 4.7 million people, while Ukraine was the third-largest at 8.3%, with 2.1 million people.

Officials had hoped tourism this year could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019, when some 52 million visitors – including about 7 million Russians and 1.6 million Ukrainians – brought in $34 billion in revenue.

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