Sat, 29 Jan 2022

ISTANBUL, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Turkey has revised the expectation of tourism revenues upwards to 24 billion U.S. dollars for 2021, a much-needed hard currency as the country grapples with crippling local currency turbulence.

"Turkey aims to generate 24-billion-dollar income from the tourism industry this year," Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy recently said.

The country is expected to welcome 29 million foreign tourists this year, he stressed during a tourism congress in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.

The revision of the targets from 20 billion to 24 billion dollars stems from better-than-expected tourism figures for November and December, he added.

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), the tourism revenues in 2020 totaled 12.6 billion dollars, a 65 percent decline from the previous year, amid the coronavirus-related travel restrictions and fall in demand.

Meanwhile, the number of tourists last year was 12.7 million, falling by 71.7 percent compared with 2019.

The increase in tourism revenues would be a shot in the arm for Turkey's declining foreign currency reserves as the lira has lost over 40 percent of its value since January following interest rate cuts to boost credits and exports.

A source at the Culture and Tourism Ministry told Xinhua that the revenues are "crucial" as it accounts for some 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), funding a large current account deficit.

The weakening of the national currency is a serious headache for Turkish households, on the other hand, it is a boon for travelers, making vacationing in Turkey more affordable for foreigners holding dollars, euros, or pounds.

"The purchasing power of Turkish citizens is declining amid price hikes, so they cannot afford vacations, while as we are becoming a cheap paradise for tourists who own foreign currency," Mert Kilic, a tour operator from southern Turkey, told Xinhua.

He said that the hoteliers indebted because of pandemic restrictions in 2019 and 2020 might have no option to consider foreign acquisition offers in the future.

To assist professionals in dire straits, Denizbank, one of Turkey's leading private banks, has restructured some 1.4 billion dollars of a total of 2.9 billion dollars of tourism loans, the bank's CEO Hakan Ates said on Monday, according to state-run Anadolu agency.

"This year has been better than the two previous ones, but hoteliers stayed afloat with loans, so this may be a problem for 2022 if the lira continues to decline," Kilic remarked.

Turkey's tourism agencies launched recently an early booking campaign at "attractive and affordable prices" for the 2022 season, not only for the sea-sand-sun tourism, the dominant type, but other areas such as the growing health tourism.

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