The Mediterranean tourism gem of Antalya is seeing more European tourists this year, in a long-sought market diversification for Turkey’s crucial industry heading into its pre-pandemic form.
The rebound in foreign arrivals this year has given a much-needed boost to the tourism sector which is leaving behind the 2020-21 coronavirus crisis despite the fallout from war in Ukraine.
Along with the influx of European nations, the streets and beaches of Antalya are teeming with locals this week after Turkey extended the Qurban Bayram holiday, also known as Eid al-Adha.
The religious holiday proved to be such a factor that air traffic in the southern province broke a record, with 121 domestic flights and 913 international flights.
Arrivals from Europe, particularly Germany and Britain, two of the markets Turkey’s tourism sector has missed out on during the pandemic, have encouraged an industry worried about the potential impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Antalya welcomed around 5 million foreigners in the first half of the year, as German tourists dethroned Russians, long the province’s main source of tourism.
Arrivals from Germany reached nearly 955,000 from January to June, compared to just 145,444 a year ago.
Antalya received 785,000 Russian tourists, around 434,000 British, 238,000 Poles and 160,000 Dutch, according to official data.
“There is a serious recovery in the European market this season,” Antalya Governor Ersin Yazıcı said.
Yazıcı underlined the importance of the positive impact he believes the increase in the number of European tourists is having on the sector, underlining expectations that the trend will continue.
The governor also noted the diversification of the market, pointing to the significant jump in arrivals from Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as Poland and northern Europe.
Antalya has long relied on Russian and Ukrainian tourists, who accounted for more than half of overall foreign arrivals last year.
The war in Ukraine is expected to hit arrivals from Turkey’s main tourist sources and comes at a time when the industry is trying to recover from the impact of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 since 2020.
More than 9 million foreign tourists arrived in the southern province in 2021, in a major rebound from 2020, but it remains well below 15.6 million in 2019.
The number of foreigners arriving in Turkey from January to May this year jumped by more than 207 percent to more than 11.3 million, according to official data.
The figure soared 94.1% to 24.71 million and revenue doubled to nearly $25 billion last year when COVID-19 measures were eased.
Officials hope tourism this year could match or exceed 2019 figures, when some 52 million visitors brought in $34 billion in revenue.
The president of the Professional Hotel Managers Association (POYD), Ülkay Atmaca, also noted the increase in arrivals from Europe, in addition to what he said was a notable increase in the Middle Eastern market.
Atmaca expects the number of European tourists to exceed 2019 figures.
Ali Kızıldağ, general manager of a hotel in the popular resort town of Belek in Antalya, echoed Atmaca’s view, pointing to a rapid rebound in the European market from the fallout from the pandemic.
“We believe that we will surpass the 2019 figures in the number of European tourists,” Kızıldağ added.
“We are seeing higher occupancy than in 2021. There are serious increases in the German and UK markets,” he said.
“In general, you can say that there is an increase throughout Europe. Mobility in the European market has been the motivation of the sector.
“The season is going pretty well, and it looks like it’s going to get a lot better.”