Turkey’s already beleaguered tourism industry faces further sharp decline in the wake of the failed military coup against President Erdogan’s government and following a terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in June that left 41 dead.
In the latest forecast, the head of the Tourism Investor’s Association Murat Ersoy predicted a $15bn loss in tourism revenue for Turkey – this was on June 1, before the airport attacks and the coup attempt. Already in May, the country’s Tourism Ministry reported a 35% drop in visitor numbers from the same month in 2015. Tour operators within Turkey “have faced the risk of losing some 60 percent of their revenue,” Mr Ersoy said in a statement.
Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci estimated that the coup may cost the country more than $100bn, noting that immediately following the military violence, several foreign investors cancelled their orders.
Damage from the coup has essentially cancelled out Turkey’s recently repaired relations with Russia, which had previously banned all flights to Turkey following its downing of a Russian jet when it violated Turkish airspace last November. In 2015, Russia provided five million tourists to Turkey, making the move a major blow to tour operators.
Bordering the heartland of the Islamic State in Syria, Turkey is faced with the twin threat of Syria’s civil war and clashes with outlawed Kurdish militant group the PKK. Terror attacks from the PKK and ISIS have struck both police and civilian targets in capital Ankara and in Istanbul. More than 250 people have died in Turkey in the last year in a series of gun and bomb attacks, and the attempted military coup has taken more than 300 additional lives. Concerns over how president Erdogan will run his country from this point onwards further compound the uncertainty.
The World Tourism and Travel Organisation predicts an average of 13 months for the time it takes a country’s tourism numbers to recover from a major terrorist attack, but this very much varies depending on country, government policies and regional geopolitics.
“Tourism jobs will suffer which is a terrible tragedy, because Turkey has a young and fast-growing population that needs these jobs,” said Rochelle Turner, director of research at the World Travel and Tourism Council. “It’s what should be driving the economy and the country’s growth. That these jobs are at risk is a real worry. Tourism comprising 12.9% of Turkey’s GDP is likely to suffer, because you cannot maintain tourism at that level with instability at the same time.”
Tourism employs 8% of the Turkish population and is an essential source of foreign currency to the country. In 2014 Turkey was ranked the 6th most attractive destination in the world, attracting 34.8 million visitors and $35bn in tourism revenues.
“The main impact of the coup attempt, taken together with the last attacks, means Turkey’s efforts to revilatise tourism will become largely ineffective,” said Ali Sokomen, Turkey analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks, in an interview with Bloomberg.