Lured by the cheap pound and unrestricted travel, Arab tourists turn to Turkey

  • While Brits are still banned, Arabs are helping bridge the digital divide
  • Turkish tourism recovers after nearly losing 2020
  • Airport passengers at height of pandemic era this month
  • German and Russian visitors also return

ISTANBUL, July 14 (Reuters) – Arab visitors drawn to travel without quarantine and a cheap pound help boost rebound in Turkey’s tourism industry, which is struggling to fill the void left by the British, for whom the country remains not allowed.

On vacation with his family in Istanbul, Jordanian Omar Zahra, 48, said flying from Amman was a better choice than destinations in the Gulf, where a failed COVID-19 test would result in quarantine, or those in the European Union, which briefly banned travelers from Jordan.

“You don’t have to go to Europe. It’s much more expensive… and they still have restrictions,” he said this week on a boat trip through the Bosphorus Strait as nine Jordanians were sipping Turkish coffee and taking pictures of Ottomans. palace of the time.

His sister Muna Abuzahra asked the guide if they would sail near the waterfront villa Abud Efendi Yalisi, where the Turkish television series “Noor” – one of the most popular in Arab countries – is filmed.

“It’s the best place to go for the price, culture, nature, food and weather,” Zahra added.

Turkey’s tourism sector accounts for up to 12% of the economy and is a key source of foreign income to compensate for large trade imbalances.

Last year, he was struck by the fallout from the coronavirus. This year, activity is expected to return closer to pre-pandemic levels, despite early season cancellations after an increase in COVID-19 cases led to a partial lockdown in May. Read more

During the first week of July, passenger numbers at airports were at their highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to the State Airports Authority.

Flights from Russia, Turkey’s largest source of holidaymakers, resumed last month and the Germans, the second-largest source, are also making reservations, travel industry officials say. Read more

But the absence of Britons, for whom it remains a Red List destination restricted to all but essential travel, partly means that Turkey’s international air traffic was still down 52% in June compared to June 2019. .


Meanwhile, trips without a quarantine and a pound that has fallen more than 50% against the dollar in the past three years have boosted demand from the Middle East, executives say.

“We are seeing huge demand and big budget bookings from Jordan … So far, this appears to be our number one market in the region,” said Serdar Ali Abet, President of Karnak Travel, who is mainly specializes in the Gulf and Middle East markets.

With holiday traffic from Qatar and the Palestinian Territories also on the rise, he estimated Arab holidaymakers would reach 50% of pre-pandemic levels this year, held back in part by political friction with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the Lebanese economic crisis.

Also citing Kuwait’s request, Ulkay Atmaca, managing director of Innvista Hotels Belek, said Turkish Mediterranean hotels were doing better than expected, although it was not possible to reach 2019 levels this year.

Jordanian Abuzahra had returned after vacationing in Antalya a few years ago.

“We have heard so much about Istanbul,” she said. “If you want to go to (Jordan) Bethany, the Dead Sea, or Aqaba, you’ll spend a lot more than here. It’s a good choice and a good price.”

Reporting by Ceyda Caglayan; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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