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Turkey suffers sharp visitor drop as coup hits tourism

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ANKARA: The number of foreigners visiting Turkey plummeted nearly 38 percent in August, with tourism battered by the July failed coup and security concerns after attacks, statistics showed on Thursday.

The figures are the first to show visitor numbers for a full month after the attempted putsch which saw a rogue military faction try to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power and attempt to seize Istanbul’s main international airport.

Some 3.18 million visitors came to Turkey in August this year, down 37.96 percent on August 2015, the tourism ministry said in its latest release.

June saw the sharpest drop of 40.86 percent compared with the previous year, while in July, the number of arrivals fell by 36.72 percent.

The tourism industry had already been hit before the coup by a string of attacks this year including the triple suicide bombing at Istanbul’s main airport in June which left 47 dead and was blamed on the Islamic State group.

Last month, 57 people including 34 children were killed in a suicide bombing during a Kurdish wedding in the southern city of Gaziantep. IS was again blamed by Turkish authorities.

The tourism industry last year was worth $35.1 billion in revenues and it accounts for 4.4 percent of GDP in Turkey.

Despite normalising ties with Moscow in June and the lifting of travel sanctions this summer, visitor numbers to Turkey from Russia fell 83.63 percent last month compared with the previous year.

In August 2015, the overall number of Russian visitors was nearly 640,000 but this year’s figure for August was under 105,000, in a devastating blow to tourism on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

However, the resumption of charter flights to Turkish resorts at the start of September could see a welcome rise in Russian visitors.

Arrivals in August from the key tourism market of Germany were down 34.5 percent while arrivals from Iran — an increasing source of tourism — fell almost 32 percent.

Saudi Arabia was the only key tourism market to see any growth with visitor numbers from the kingdom reversing the trend and doubling in August 2015.

In its latest trading update Tuesday, British travel operator Thomas Cook Group said that there was strong demand for most destinations except Turkey.

The operator saw a four percent slump in bookings because of Turkey where “demand continues to be volatile”, Peter Fankhauser, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement.

 

 

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