Turkey eyes 25 million foreign visitors in 2021, tourism officials say

FILE PHOTO: Sunbeds are aligned respecting social distancing on the Yemis Kumu beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near the Mediterranean city of Mersin, Turkey June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Kaan Soyturk

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s tourism sector hopes to bring in 25 million foreign visitors in 2021 as coronavirus vaccines boost hopes of a better year, after a decline in tourist numbers caused by the pandemic.

Tourism industry sources say it will take at least two years for the number of arrivals to reach the levels before the pandemic. Tourism revenues account for up to 12% of the Turkish economy.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey in 2019 was 45.06 million; tourism revenues stood at $34.5 billion. In the first 11 months of 2020, the number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey was 12 million, down 72%.

“We need to reach a target of 25-30 million in 2021. 2021 is the year of crawling and standing up. 2022-2023 will be the year of running,” said Turkey Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED) Chairman Sururi Corabatir.

Corabatir said the most important factor would be vaccination, followed by a decline in the number of coronavirus cases in both Turkey and the countries who send tourists to Turkey.

“In 2021, we are targeting half of the numbers in 2019,” Turkey Travel Agencies Association (TURSAB) Chairman Firuz Baglikaya said.

“The sector will experience much tougher competition in 2021. The cake is getting smaller, so those who want a slice will have to be much more aggressive,” Baglikaya said.

On Monday, Turkey reported 13,695 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours and 197 related deaths. Ankara has imposed curfews each weekday evening and full weekend lockdowns for more than a month.

Turkey has received a first shipment of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine and has signed an agreement for up to 30 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine as well.

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