Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Fri March 25 2016

How Turkey's Tourism is Struggling

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | March 25, 2016

How Turkey's Tourism is Struggling

PHOTO: Istanbul, Turkey where creeping terror threats and other uncertainties are driving down tourism. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)

Turkey has been plagued with terror attacks, four in the last three months alone, and the threat of insecurity in the country has caused a nosedive in tourism.

Businesses are struggling and reports suggest that tourism is down 50 percent. According to the Ministry of Tourism, there has been a decline of 6.4 percent and hotels are reporting that bookings are down as much as 70 percent.

The biggest decline is in Russian visitors. Russia’s middle class has been hit by an economic crisis, and tensions between Turkey and Russia have escalated since Turkish forces shot down a Russian war plane. Russian President Vladmir Putin has put sanctions in place against Turkey that affect travel, food exports and construction projects.

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Russia has specifically banned the sale of charter holidays for Russians to Turkey, putting a stranglehold on the tourism industry, which used to welcome more than 3 million Russians per year. Last year, the number of Russian tourists to the country declined by more than 1 million visitors. 

In a sign that the tourism economy may be going bust, reports came out in early February that more than 1,300 hotels were up for sale in some of the country’s most popular tourism regions, according to the Moscow Times

In February, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced an action plan to bolster the beleaguered tourism industry. The plan called for $87 million to enable tourism companies to restructure debt.

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“Nobody should expect Turkey to become introverted or change its axis amid many tensions around. On the contrary, we’ll open abroad more,” said Davutoglu in a speech launching the new tourism support package.

The plan is made up of several measures that include ways in which travel agencies can restructure their debts, receive access to loans and receive incentives as well as postponement of rent payments and discounts on utility payments.

While the action plan may be in place, the tourism industry is still taking a beating. Visitors report thinning crowds at popular tourist attractions and vendors say that sales are on the decline in popular places such as the Grand Bazaar. However, there is a bright side. Visitors can take advantage of steep discounts. Hotels are offering rates up to 40 percent off of what they would normally charge and airfares are cheap – and Turkey’s beaches and resort areas are no less stunning than they were, just less crowded.

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