It was only a couple of years ago that the Turkish tourism industry was on its knees. How quickly things can change.
Turkey’s remarkable tourism turnaround continued into 2018 as it once again came out on top in Europe for international arrivals growth.
Preliminary results for last year show Turkey up 22.3 percent on the prior year, according to the European Travel Commission, which collated the data.
“Assuming year-to-date growth holds true for 2018 as a whole, arrivals to Turkey in 2018 will exceed 47 million – this would mark a new record for the destination in tourist arrivals terms, having never before exceeded 40 million,” the ETC said in its report.
What’s interesting is that even though Turkey is well on the path to recovery following the attempted coup in 2016 and several terrorist attacks, arrivals from key markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany are still lower than their peak levels. Last year’s growth also was also slightly down on 2017.
Tour operators like TUI Group and Thomas Cook have returned to Turkey in the last couple of years following a resurgence in customer demand. It is a much cheaper destination for both consumers and businesses, compared with those in the western Mediterranean.
Nick Wrightman, managing director of tour operator The Discerning Collection, which specializes in Turkey, said the country had enjoyed a buoyant couple of years.
“Turkey certainly has had a great 2018, it was getting much better in 2017,” he said.
Wrightman said the growth in 2018 can be attributed to the weak Turkish lira, cheaper hotels and the perception of an improvement in safety.
“I’ve noticed certainly that families are back again, and thats a great sign for Turkey. When families go, you know the destination is perceived as safe…”
Countries like Spain and Portugal were beneficiaries of instability in Turkey but the trend appears to be reversing now. Spain’s international tourism growth dropped to 0.7 percent and Portugal’s to 0.2 percent, both these figures only cover the first 11 months of the year.
After Turkey, the next highest growth levels came from Serbia (+14.7 percent,) Malta (+14.5 percent,) Montenegro (+14 percent,) and Latvia (+10.1 percent.)
The UK was the worst performing destination —down 5.3 percent — thanks in part to its impressive performance in 2017. This result only covers the first nine months of the year.
“More developed destinations can find it difficult to sustain higher rates of growth compared to developing ones,” the ETC said.
Iceland’s booming tourism industry looks like it is cooling, with growth falling back to 5.5 percent in 2018.
Europe travel is “disproportionately growing” for small group operator Intrepid Group, CEO James Thornton said Friday.
“Europe just in general is booming,” he said. “There have been less terror-related issues in the last 12 months. I think confidence has renewed in that sense.”
In addition to Turkey, which is also growing rapidly for Intrepid, Thornton said less-visited destinations are becoming magnets for travelers who want to “do something other people aren’t doing.”
“They can be the first and be there and get on social media and tell their friends about something, try to make something trendy,” he said.
Skift Senior Enterprise Editor Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.
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Photo credit: Thomas Cook's Smartline Flamingo, in Oludeniz, Turkey. The country's tourism industry continues to bounceback. Thomas Cook