Blasts in Istanbul claimed by ISIL and freeze in ties with Russia blamed for decline
Tourist numbers are falling in Turkey. February say a drop of 10% year-on-year, the biggest decline in a decade. Security concerns above all appear to be fueling the decline. Turkey has been hit by a spate of bomb attacks this year.
Two blamed on ISIL struck in Istanbul, the country's biggest city and a traditional tourist draw. In January a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city's historic heart, killing 12 German tourists. For one hotel manager the tourist dip is worse than the headline figure of 10% being quoted by the tourism ministry.
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Onder Dinler, General Manager of Crowne Plaza Hotel: "This figure does not seem plausible to me. The reality in life is different. If we assess the situation in Istanbul, I believe there is a bigger, a sharper fall. This fall has accelerated especially after the last bomb attack in Istanbul. The numbers fell about 20-30 percent in real terms."
Among the groups who have stopped coming to Turkey are Russians. After relations between Moscow and Ankara plummeted last year, the two nations cancelled a mutual visa-free regime. According to the Turkish Travel Agencies Association, steps taken to revive the Russian market are being expanded.
Cetin Gurcun, Secretary General of Tursab: "UDS 6,000 support was granted for charter flights from Russia to revive the Russian market where we experience the fall. Now this kind of support is given to tour operators who bring tourists to airports with scheduled or charter flights from any part of the world without restrictions for any countries."
Economists have forecast tourism revenue will drop by a quarter this year, costing the country around USD 8 billion. But for some foreign visitors, the lure of the beauty of Istanbul trumped security worries.
Philip Sustoric, Croatian Tourist: "To be honest it did a little bit get me scared but then again, I don't want to be scared in terms of terrorism and I always wanted to visit Istanbul, so it didn't affect my travel plans. I can't see anything different. I don't feel anything different."
Marie Thomas, British tourist: "We had planned the trip before the most recent attack however we decided that sort of an attack could happen anywhere and that we would really still like to come because I have been to Istanbul before and it is a beautiful city."
Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet over Syria last year, prompting the Kremlin to impose economic sanctions, including a ban on charter flights. The Turkish government says it expects the dent in tourist numbers to be short-lived. It is underlining Turkey's position as the sixth most visited country in the world.