Turkey wants to attract 50 million tourists and increase the sector’s revenue to 50 billion US dollars (472.12 billion TL) by 2023, said Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy on Tuesday.
Ersoy spoke to Al-Jazeera television in Doha as part of his visit to Qatar.
Ersoy expressed that there are major tourism projects in Turkey’s Aegean region that will serve the national economy for 50 years and said it was his first visit to the Gulf country and he was very pleased with what he saw.
The minister said he had visited many public and private institutions, seen Doha’s huge ventures in tourism, and had discussions with the Qatari authorities on joint performance options.
Commenting on the global tourism industry and developments in Turkey in the shadow of COVID-19, he said the negative impact of the pandemic first emerged in early 2020 and has intensified since then.
Tourism in Turkey fell 65% in 2020, a devastating number, he said.
Ersoy noted that Spain and Greece were Turkey’s competitors in tourism but were less affected by the pandemic, stressing that overseas tourism had started to recover in recent months after a difficult year in Turkey.
The number of foreigners arriving in Turkey hit a 21-month high in a strong recovery in July. The country hosted more than 4.36 million tourists in July, a whopping 367.5% increase over the previous year when only 932,927 foreigners arrived, data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed. Over 2 million tourists arrived in June, more than double the number in May. In August, the number of foreigners visiting Turkey more than doubled, aided by the gradual easing of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus around the world.
In the January-August period, more than 14 million foreign visitors came to the country, an increase of 94% compared to the same period last year and a decrease of 55% compared to 2019.
While Turkish tourism has recovered strongly from last year and the number of foreign visitors quadrupled to 4.36 million in July, it remained well below the pre-pandemic level.
Ersoy also noted that there is an inverse relationship between the Turkish lira and the revitalization of tourism in the country.
“When the lira depreciates, exports increase and the tourism sector is also positively impacted because we can market higher quality products at lower prices,” he said.
Regarding the tourist profile, the minister noted that the arrival of Arab tourists to Turkey has decreased since the beginning of this year.
Arab tourists, mostly from the Gulf region, generally spend the most in the country, making a generous contribution to the sector.
Ersoy stated that the tourism sector’s contribution to the economy in Turkey is 12% and it is the main source of foreign income.
“We have the largest open-air museum in the world,” he said, adding that the country is also home to religious sites of the three monotheistic religions, enabling both religious tourism and opportunities in health and culinary tourism.
The most popular procedures in the Turkish health tourism industry are hair transplant, organ transplant and plastic surgery which attract customers from all over the world. These sectors generate more than $ 1 billion annually, Ersoy said.
He added that in order to revive the momentum in the tourism industry, they have set up an agency in Qatar promoting tourist attractions in Turkey.
As part of his official contacts in the country, the minister met with Qatari Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and his Qatari counterpart.