The tourism industry in Turkey has been facing tough times. From a Russian ban to the recent military coup attempt, 2016 has been a particularly difficult year. Additionally, the bombings in Ankara and terrorist attacks in Istanbul have done little to draw foreigners into the country. Despite increasing pressures to recover the industry and make up lost revenues, the future of Turkey’s tourism sector is optimistic.
In 2014, tourism throughout Turkey was at an all-time high. That year saw $33 billion in tourist revenue enter the country, accompanied by nearly 40 million sightseers. Americans accounted for an impressive 800,000 of these tourists, making them one of the most prominent visitors by country. However, following Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian jet, a now lifted ban was placed prohibiting Russian tourists from visiting the country. This was a huge blow to the industry, as Russian tourists were the largest demographic entering the country. The ban, coupled with the bombings in Ankara and terrorist attacks in Istanbul, did little to draw foreigners into the country.
Later, 2015 saw a dramatic reduction of tourists entering Turkey, with numbers plummeting to 36 million. More recently, Turkey’s military coup has done little to alleviate the situation; some travelers are now unsure about the country’s safety and security. As numbers continue to drop, many are left wondering how and when the crisis will be solved. As tourism has routinely accounted for ten percent of the country’s GDP, a solution to the decline must come soon.
At the 2016 Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations, the tourism crisis was a prominent topic of discussion. In a panel moderated by Armin Zerunyan, Vice President of the Hotel Association of Turkey, experts and attendees were given the opportunity to discuss a myriad of potential solutions. Consensus saw Turkey’s road to recovery as a long and arduous process; it will take a while to ease concerns of security and safety after the coup. However, despite these challenges, the future of tourism remains optimistic.
Turkey offers an impressive number of sightseeing opportunities, cultural and culinary diversity, and an impressive array of accommodations. These tourist magnets were displayed magnificently at the U.S.-Turkey Conference in a short film, created by Turkish travel agency TURSAB. Attendees were given a taste of what a visit to Turkey would be like, as the film virtually took viewers from one destination to the next. From the diverse and colorful streets of Istanbul to the wondrous landscapes of the Turkish countryside, the tourism industry has played a huge role in the development of the country.
Medical tourism was a prominent topic of discussion at the U.S.-Turkey conference. Many American and European citizens find themselves looking to other countries for surgical procedures, as most are notoriously and outrageously expensive in U.S. hospitals. Despite the country’s decline in tourism overall, the number of medical tourists entering Turkey has steadily increased. Over 700,000 medical tourists visited the country in 2015 to take advantage of Turkish plastic surgery, optometry, and dentistry, among others. Expanding upon this resilient industry could help provide a short-term solution to the tourism deficit.
Recovery from this industry decline will be a process that spans many years. It will undoubtedly take time to shed negative perceptions of safety and stability within Turkey, and draw foreigners in again. These concerns discussed at the U.S.-Turkey Convention were not without weight; however, strategies in place are projected to restore the tourism sector to its former glory, and expand growth beyond previous recorded highs.