Tourism officials and hoteliers in Turkey are optimistic about a recovery in the German market this year as bilateral political relations improve.
In hardly any other country has the relationship between politics and the tourism industry been subject to such a hard test in recent years as in Turkey. At the recent Emitt travel fair in Istanbul, for example, the applause from most of the 800 participants was only limited when the Turkish tourism minister Numan Kurtulmus entered the room to make a speech. But everyone appeared satisfied at the end after he announced that the government would subsidise flights from Western Europe by between $1,500 and $9,000 per flight this year.
In the last two years, above all Russian and Arab tourists have visited the country. But in 2018 the growth is supposed to come from Western Europe, and from Germany in particular. Bookings have risen strongly in recent weeks, according to German tour operators and other sources.
“2017 was the year of the Russians, and 2018 will be the year of the Germans,” Lütfi Elvan, minister for economic development, told investors invited by the Turkish investors association TYD on the eve of the fair. Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in Turkey, and thus responsible for growth and employment, he emphasised. Oya Narin, president of the TYD board, declared: “It is the right time to invest in Turkey.”
Antalya alone expects a 20% increase in visitor numbers this year, said Yusuf Hacisüleyman, vice-president of the Antalya Chamber of Commerce (ATSO). In 2017, about 10 million foreign visitors travelled to the Mediterranean coast, including 1.6 million Germans.
Incoming agencies have profited from these volumes. The largest agency in the region last year was the Odeon Holding, which owns the OTI and Coral Travel businesses, with an estimated 12% market share. OTI is strong in the Russian market and now active in Germany following the acquisition of tour operator Ferien Touristik. The group is closely followed by Anex (10.3%) and Pegas (9.8%). The FTI subsidiary Meeting Point has risen to fourth place (8.5%).
In contrast, the consequences of the failed coup attempt have been felt much more heavily in Istanbul. The historic metropolis boasts an impressive 34% of total bed capacity in Turkey, ahead of Antalya (30%). But in 2016, only 14% of all foreign visitors travelled to the city on the Bosphorus, well behind Antalya (53%), figures published at Emitt showed.
Hopes are now high among Turkish hoteliers and tourism managers for a recovery in the German market following the recent improvement in bilateral relations between the countries’ respective foreign ministers. The future German foreign minister will play a major role in developing relations further.
Michael Frenzel, president of the German Tourism Industry Association (BTW), brought positive news for participants in Istanbul. “All tour operators report good growth and have increased their Turkey capacity,” he said. TUI alone has a 70% rise in bookings for Turkey this summer. Frenzel underlined the destination’s high hotel quality, fair prices and great hospitality for families.
But he also made the safety concerns of German consumers clear to investors. According to a recent survey, German holidaymakers only view Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Italy as safe destinations. Turkey therefore needed to develop a clear communication strategy on the topic of safety, he recommended. “The tourism industry is a growth, peace and change industry,” declared the BTW president as minister Lütfi Elvan nodded in agreement.