The number of foreign visitors to Turkey rose for the first time since a row with Russia deepened a crisis in the nation’s tourism industry.
Tourist arrivals rose 18 percent from a year ago to just over two million in April, ending a losing streak that began in August 2015 and worsened after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near its border with Syria — bringing ties with Moscow to a near-collapse. Russia, then the second-biggest source of visitors, responded by banning travel to Turkey for tourism.
A tourism recovery is crucial for Turkey, which relies on the foreign-exchange revenue to plug part of a current-account gap predicted to reach 4.7 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Nearly a year after Turkey apologized to Russia for the jet incident, the April data is the first sign of a possible turnaround, according to Muammer Komurcuoglu, an economist at IS Investment in Istanbul.
Tourism revenue may jump more than expected this year if the trend continues, Komurcuoglu said in an emailed note on Tuesday, adding that he had predicted a 10 percent increase. “This will have a positive impact on the current-account gap and growth,” he said. Gross travel income was about $18.7 billion last year, according to central bank data.
Even so, the data illustrate just how much ground the tourism industry needs to make up. Excluding the 2016 comparison, visitor numbers in April were still the lowest for that month since 2010.
The improved figures also came at a cost, according to the Turkish Touristic Hotels and Investors Association. While average hotel occupancy rose to 61.2 percent last month from 52.9 percent a year earlier, the average daily rate in the key Istanbul market fell from 111.9 euros to 78.5 euros in the same period, it said on Tuesday.