Turkey eyes 25 million foreign visitors in 2021

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Turkey’s tourism sector hopes that coronavirus vaccines will boost tourism and bring in some 25 million foreign visitors in 2021 after a decline in tourist numbers caused by the pandemic.

Tourism industry sources say it will take at least two years for the number of arrivals to reach the levels before the pandemic. Tourism revenues account for up to 12% of the Turkish economy.

The country’s tourism income has narrowed significantly as the pandemic led to worldwide travel restrictions, border shutdowns and an overall drop in consumer demand.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey in 2019 was 45 million while tourism revenues stood at $34.5 billion. In the first 11 months of 2020, the number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey was 12 million, down 72%.

“We need to reach a target of 25 million-30 million in 2021. 2021 is the year of crawling and standing up. 2022-2023 will be the year of running,” said Turkey Hoteliers Federation Chairperson.

He told Reuters that the most important factor in boosting tourism would be vaccinations, followed by a decline in the number of coronavirus cases in both Turkey and the countries that send tourists to Turkey.

“In 2021, we are targeting half of the numbers in 2019,” Turkey Travel Agencies Association Chairman said.

“The sector will experience much tougher competition in 2021. The cake is getting smaller, so those who want a slice will have to be much more aggressive,” he told Reuters.

Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said in late November that the tourism sector was likely to shrink 70% in 2020 due to the outbreak.

Ersoy had said the country was likely to close 2020 with tourism revenues slightly over $11 billion and over 15 million travelers.

He stressed that the 2021 figure is expected to exceed this year but fall behind 2019. “We should target 100% growth for next year at minimum,” the minister said.

Turkey has received the first shipment of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine and has signed an agreement for up to 30 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine as well.

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