By Gavin Haines
Afailed military coup, a series of terrorist attacks and the increasingly authoritarian stance of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appear to have had a devastating impact on Turkey’s tourism industry.
Figures suggest that visitor numbers nosedived by 30 per cent in 2016, to 25.4 million, the lowest level in nine years.
In a bid to arrest that decline, hotels across the country are offering significant discounts on rooms, with nightly rates at some properties now up to around 70 per cent cheaper than they were in 2015.
The government has also stepped in by offering loans to hotels and expanding fuel subsidies for airlines, which it hopes will make Turkey a more financially attractive proposition for carriers.
In a sign of how seriously the Turkish government is taking the drop off in tourist numbers, the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, this week made an appearance at ITB Berlin, a travel trade show, to lobby tourists to return to his country.
Mr Cavusoglu made a direct appeal to German holidaymakers, who account for 15 per cent of Turkey’s visitors, but have been put off travelling to the country due to security concerns. Relations between Germany and Turkey have also been strained in recent weeks following the detention of a Turkish-German journalist in Istanbul.
“There is no reason for our German friends to be afraid to come to Turkey,” Mr Cavusoglu pleaded. “Turkey is as safe as Germany.”
The minister had been speaking in Berlin prior to yesterday’s axe attack in Dusseldorf, which left seven people injured. The attack is not thought to have been related to terrorism.
Those who are prepared to visit Turkey, which is still in a state of emergency following the failed coup in July 2016, are likely to make big savings on their holidays this year.
Massive discounts are being offered by many hotels, including Palm World Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive property near the seaside town of Side, which is offering savings of up to 40 per cent this year, after a 50 per cent price reduction in 2016.
The hotel’s owner, Mehmet Surucuoglu, told Reuters that so far only a quarter of his rooms had been booked for the summer season.
“It is better to have some people coming at lower prices than to have an empty hotel,” he said.
Speaking at ITB Berlin, the Turkish culture and tourism minister, Nabi Avci, said he was hopeful the country’s travel industry could bounce back.
Avci’s may have reason to be hopeful: having cut capacity by 30 per cent last year, Thomas Cook told Telegraph Travel that it expects increased demand from UK consumers for holidays in Turkey this year. However, its German business is expected to cut capacity to the country by around 10 per cent.
The green shoots of recovery may be sprouting, but it looks like another difficult year could be in store for Turkey’s resorts.