Pre-bookings show European tourists head back to Turkey this year

Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Chairman Firuz Bağlıkaya said that European tourists are heading to Turkey again, as pre-bookings reveal that 2019 will be a brighter year for the tourism industry in terms of European tourists.

Turkey enjoyed a boom in foreign arrivals last year and welcomed 39.5 million foreign visitors, a 21.84 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

TÜRSAB Chairman Bağlıkaya told Anadolu Agency (AA) that it is necessary to increase the number of destinations and extend the season in order to

attract foreign tourists to the country.

Highlighting that the tourism industry broke records in 2018, Bağlıkaya continued that passengers in different segments, such as cruiser and congressional tourism, come a little late. Stating that tourists in these segments with high spending power and in good financial condition prefer such types of tourism, he said: "Therefore, they turn up a little bit late. There is a specific condition with cruises as they are planned approximately four years ago. The industry really experienced a setback in 2016. I think the demand for Turkey's cruise ports will gradually increase in 2019."

Emphasizing that they aim for record-high figures in tourism, Bağlıkaya said they will start the season with an objective of $40 billion in tourism revenue and 50 million tourists.

Touching on expectations for this year's season, Bağlıkaya noted that the number of European tourists in 2018 was lower than in 2015. He further stated that records were broken thanks to tourists coming from outside Europe. "Pre-bookings reveal that European tourists are coming back in 2019. 2019 will be a brighter year," he added.

Russia was the top country with 5.96 million visitors last year, accounting for 15.1 percent of all foreign visitors welcomed in Turkey. Russia was followed by Germany with 4.51 million visitors, Bulgaria with 2.38 million, the U.K. with 2.25 million and Georgia with 2.07 million.

Underlining that they have been

closely monitoring the Far Eastern market, Bağlıkaya said, "India and the Far East are deep markets. However, they are distant from us. Therefore, it may not be realistic to aim to bring 10 million tourists to Turkey from these markets."

However, he noted that Turkey must gradually increase the number of tourists coming from these markets. "This is because tourists with high spending capacity come from there. This year, we achieved a growth of 60 percent in these markets. We aim to gradually increase this to 1 million and 1.5 million," he added.

When mentioning possible visa problems tourists from India may face, he said this issue should be eliminated as soon as possible. "India needs to get more involved. There is a very serious visa problem there. When the visa issue is resolved in this market, it is likely to bring a major inflow to Turkey. We are in contact with the Foreign Ministry on this issue," TÜRSAB Chairman Bağlıkaya said.

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