Tourism rebounds in Turkey as visitor profile shifts east

Nancy Siegers and her partner Cemil Deniz opened a hotel in central Antalya days before the Turkish lira collapsed in August 2018. Siegers, a Dutch national living in Turkey, said business was rough through the fall and winter at her boutique hotel in the historic Kaleici district, but she has seen a gradual turnaround in recent months.

Speaking inside the family home-turned-bed & breakfast, which she named “Nensie’s” in line with Turkish phonetics, Siegers said her rooms were fully booked for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The rise in summer bookings had been a welcome surprise.

“We are very happy that this was a successful holiday for us,” Siegers told Al-Monitor. “For the first year, I guess we’re doing quite well.”

Down the street, Siegers and Deniz have also been running Cay-Tea’s Lunchroom for the last five years. She said business is recovering there as well after visitor numbers dropped steeply in 2016 following a spate of political instability in Turkey.

Her experience reflects wider trends in the nation’s tourism industry, which had grown exponentially in the 2000s before peaking in 2014 and then falling as result of multiple terror attacks, including one at Ataturk airport in June 2016, and economic fallout spurred by domestic and foreign policy tensions.

Yet Turkey’s tourism sector appears to be rebounding. In the first six months of 2019, the number of foreign visitors in Turkey rose 11.3% year-on-year, according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. During the recent Eid Al-Adha holiday, some resort areas in Antalya, the nation’s main tourism hub, reported 100% occupancy rates, showing that vacationers were returning to Turkey, which remains among the top 10 most visited countries in the world.

The sector’s recovery has been a boon for the still-ailing Turkish economy, but hotel owners and tour operators noted a significant shift in the profile of people visiting from abroad. A growing share of Asian and Middle Eastern tourists have been filling hotel rooms traditionally booked by European visitors, who continue to vacation in Istanbul and Antalya, though in markedly fewer numbers since 2016.

Read the full story on Al Monitor: