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German tourists challenge Russian dominance in Türkiye’s Antalya

A strong booking trend from Germany for Antalya is having Turkish tourism professionals anticipating that visitors from Europe’s top economy would reach fresh records this year and may even surpass tourists from Russia for the first time.

The Mediterranean tourism resort hosted about 15.7 million tourists throughout 2023, according to official data, topping its earlier all-time high of 15.3 million in 2019.

More than 3.3 million Germans arrived in Antalya throughout 2023, second to around 3.5 million tourists from Russia, which stem mainly from flight restrictions imposed by Western nations over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Britons ranked third with almost 1.32 million arrivals.

Germans managed to unseat Russians in February this year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry data. Arrivals from Germany reached 58,228, compared to 48,937 from Russia.

Antalya has long been a popular holiday destination for Russians, many of whom moved to the resort after Moscow launched its military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022.

But many locals blamed their arrivals for driving up house prices and rents, prompting a petition seeking a ban on foreigners in the real estate market.

Since the invasion, Russians have overtaken Iranians as Türkiye’s biggest foreign homebuyers.

According to official data, Antalya has registered its best January-February tourist numbers ever, with a jump of 10.8% to 499,784. Arrivals from Russia reached 106,304, followed by Germany at 97,655 and the United Kingdom at 55,384.

Kaan Kavaloğlu, the head of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers and Operators Association (AKTOB), emphasized the significant flow of reservations for both Türkiye and Antalya.

“Most Germans who have come so far have made their reservations through early bookings. This year, I believe, for the first time, 4 million German tourists will come to Antalya,” said Kavaloğlu.

Recent reports suggested that Türkiye had surpassed Spain in becoming Germany’s top market in early bookings for summer vacation packages.

Hakan Saatçioğlu, the chair of the Professional Hotel Managers Association (POYD), highlighted that ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, was very productive for both Türkiye and Antalya.

“We returned with very positive data. Compared to previous years, there is about a 30% increase in early bookings from Germany. It is gratifying that we have also benefited from this,” Saatçioğlu noted.

“Being among the top 10 countries receiving early bookings in Germany is pleasing and will continue this way.”

Stressing the high probability of surpassing 4 million tourists from Germany to Antalya this year, Saatçioğlu suggested that “they might even surpass Russians for the first time.”

“It looks good, we are hopeful. Last year, there were 3.3 million Germans. So far, having received 1.5 million reservations in Antalya makes us all happy.”

Arrivals last year made Antalya the world’s fourth most visited city in 2023, according to the “Top 100 City Destinations” index, revealed by Euromonitor International. The metropolis of Istanbul was named the world’s most visited city, with almost 17.5 million tourists.

The overall tourist arrivals in Antalya are envisaged to surpass 17 million this year, according to Saatçioğlu.

He also stressed reservations from Poland and the U.K., the two countries that exceeded 1 million tourists last year after Germany and Russia.

“We had a significant leap in Poland last year, with a 35% increase. We believe this increase will continue. There was a 15% increase in the U.K. market. The U.K. market is also continuing positively in early bookings,” he noted.

“If the U.K. and Poland markets continue like this, I believe we will achieve our target of 17 million tourists.”

Foreign arrivals in Türkiye hit a record 49.2 million in 2023, up from 44.6 million tourists who arrived in 2022, with tourists from Russia and Europe, driven by Germany, spearheading the increase.

Tourism income climbed to an all-time high of $54.32 billion, compared to $46.48 billion in 2022.

The government expects arrivals to reach 60 million this year before hitting 90 million in 2028. The income is envisaged to rise to $60 billion this year and $100 billion five years from now.

The foreign exchange it brings makes tourism income vital to Türkiye’s economy. The government focuses on flipping the current account deficits to a surplus, prioritizing exports, production, and investments while curbing rising inflation.

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