According to figures provided by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUİK - Turkstat), Turkey’s tourism revenue fell by 11.4% in the first quarter of 2020, with a fall of 15.1% in visitors to 5,639,413. Revenue in the first quarter of 2020 was USD 4,101 million compared with USD 4,630 million in the same period of the previous year. The average expenditure per visitor to Turkey increased 4.3% in this quarter from USD 697 in 2019 to USD 727 in 2020.
The Turkish tourism industry had shown a very successful recovery since 2015 when there was a stand-off with Russia over the shooting down of a Russian jet which resulted in a boycott by Rusian tourists. Turkish tourism, which broke all records in 2019 and was preparing to attract even more tourists in the years to come, was a valuable source of foreign exchange for the Turkish government at a time when the Turkish economy was in recession. Unfortunately, the Turkish tourism industry has from the beginning of the year been faced with the growing spectre of the coronavirus pandemic. Turkey, in an effort to stem the spread of the virus from abroad, has been forced to restrict the influx of foreigners. Starting with China on February 3rd, 2020, Iran on February 23rd, and Italy, South Korea and Iraq on February 29th, passenger flights from nearly if not all global destinations have been stopped during March. The number of foreign visitors from OECD countries fell 65.9% in March 2020, whereas visitors from countries banned as from February have dried up.
In April, no foreigners will be visiting Turkey for touristic purposes, and only foreigners with special permission will be allowed into the country. It is unlikely that Turkey will be opened up to foreign tourists before the end of May, until when lockdown regulations will continue to be enforced. Even if lockdown restrictions are relaxed in June, borders with some countries may remain closed and flights to and from many countries will remain closed. It therefore seems very unlikely that the Turkish will be in a position to accept foreign tourists at major resorts in particular this season. The cost to Turkey’s tourism industry and to the Turkish economy as a whole will be severe this year.
Of the 5,639,413 visitors leaving Turkey in the first quarter of 2020, 4,635,845 (82.2%) visitors were foreign and 1,003,568 (17.8%) visitors were Turkish citizens living abroad. The average expenditure per foreign visitor to Turkey was USD 710 compared to USD 788 for Turkish citizens living abroad.
The coronavirus pandemic has also taken its toll of Turkish citizens visiting abroad. Their number decreased 13.6% to 1,743,660 in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Their total expenditure abroad was USD 793 million, a decrease of 25.6% on the figure for the same period of the previous year. Their average per capita expenditure was USD 455, compared with USD 529 for the same quarter of the previous year.
With regards the year 2019, Turkey’s tourism revenue grew by 17% to USD 34,520 million, whereas the number of visitors grew by 13.7% to 51,860,042. The average expenditure per visitor to Turkey increased from USD 647 in 2018 to USD 666 in 2019. Of the 51,860,042 visitors leaving Turkey in 2019, 44,712,970 (86.2%) visitors were foreign and 7,147,072 (13.8%) visitors were Turkish citizens living abroad. The average expenditure per foreign visitor to Turkey was USD 642 compared to USD 796 for Turkish citizens living abroad. This compares with USD 617 and USD 801 respectively in 2018. The number of Turkish citizens visiting abroad in 2019 was 9,650,512, a 15.1% increase compared to the previous year. Their total expenditure abroad was USD 4,404 million, a decrease of 10.1% on the previous year. Their average per capita expenditure was USD 456, compared with USD 584 for the previous year