Turkey's tourism enjoys strong recovery after years of setbacks

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ANKARA, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's tourism sector is experiencing a strong recovery from the gloomy years of 2015 and 2016.

The Turkish tourism income increased 31.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) on April 30.

The country hosted more than 6.1 million tourists in the same period, 80.2 percent of which were foreigners, and 19.8 percent Turkish citizens living abroad, TUIK said.

Also on April 30, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the country hopes to attract at least 38 million tourists in 2018.

"We will raise tourism revenues which reached 26.5 billion U.S. dollars last year to 32 billion dollars this year," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government aims to raise the number of inbound tourists to 50 million and the tourism revenues to 50 billion dollars by 2023.

The southern coastline, particularly the province of Antalya and the Aegean region, is the most preferred areas by tourists.

Figures from Turkey's Ministry of Tourism show that Iran topped the list of foreign visitors to Turkey in the first quarter of the year, followed by Georgia, Germany, Bulgaria and Russia.

A total of 738,246 Iranians visited Turkey during the period, an increase of 14.4 percent. Georgia and Russia followed with 475,452 and 416, 802 arrivals respectively.

Turkey faced serious terror attacks between 2015 and 2017. In July 2016, a failed coup attempt also contributed to the decline in tourism.

Moreover, the diplomatic crises with Russia and Germany led to reduced tourists from Europe, with the number of foreign arrivals slumping to 25 million in 2016 from 36.2 million in 2015.

These negativities led to a nearly 30-percent fall of Turkey's tourism revenues to 22.1 billion dollars in 2016.

However, after Turkey's ties with Germany and Russia started thawing in 2017, Turkey has regained its reputation as one of the most popular travel destinations for holidaymakers from the two countries.

The numbers of German and Russian tourists have increased 60 percent and 30 percent, respectively, according to Firuz Baglikaya, chair of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies.

In an interview with Daily Hurriyet in January, Kurtulmus explained several factors behind the accomplishment.

The Astana peace talks, attended by Turkey, Russia and Iran, on seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis have also helped the recovery of the relations between Turkey and Russia, he noted.

The Turkish tourism minister also pointed to his country's significant security measures imposed against terror threats, which have not happened again since 2017.

"Incidents are prevented due to early intelligence. Cross-border operations like the 'Euphrates Shield Operation' have been conducted against terror from Iraq and Syria," Kurtulmus said.

To attract more tourists, Turkey also plans to offer new tourism products, from health tourism to faith tourism, from winter tourism to congress tourism, he revealed.

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