Arrivals from Gulf to Turkey bouncing back amid renewed ties
202 / 24 Feb, 2022
202 / 24 Feb, 2022
The new page in Turkey-United Arab Emirates (UAE) relations marking deepening commercial ties is encouraging the local tourism industry as well, as it now hopes for larger mobility of wealthy visitors from the region.
The recent rapprochement was cemented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s return visit to Abu Dhabi last week, signaling a wider reset following a decade of strained ties, which had also disrupted tourist flows.
The rapprochement is said to have already revived the mobility in tourist arrivals and bookings, and could spread to the wider Gulf region.
The trend could eventually further bolster a rebound in Turkey’s tourism industry, as it continues to recover from the impact of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 since 2020.
Arrivals from the UAE had plunged as of 2018 before rebounding in 2021, as tensions were replaced by swift diplomacy and talks between senior officials.
Erdoğan’s two-day trip followed a visit by UAE’s de facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) to Ankara in late November that marked a significant move toward overcoming disputes.
Despite it being a relatively small market, a wealthy visitor profile from the Middle East trade and tourism hub could lift Turkey’s tourism revenues, which doubled to almost $25 billion last year.
The rebound from the initial wave of COVID-19 pandemic measures in 2020 saw the number of visitors, including Turkish nationals living abroad, jumping more than 88% to over 30 million last year.
Revenues were $34.5 billion in 2019, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. The government forecast income this year to match that of 2019.
Diplomacy always adds positive momentum to tourism, said Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul General Manager Ralph Radtke, citing the reengagement with the UAE.
“The proportion of guests traveling to our country from this market continues to increase following President Erdoğan’s visit to the United Arab Emirates,” Radtke said.
“We are getting results that also please us with the growing demand from this market. Compared to the last two years, the demand has doubled. We have achieved pre-pandemic numbers,” he noted.
“If the demand continues like this, we will exceed the 2017 figures,” he added.
In other signs of a political shift, Erdoğan has plans to visit Saudi Arabia as early as this month following a deep strain in ties.
Saudi Arabia is also among the important markets for the industry. Sector representatives say the demand from the kingdom has not accelerated yet but could rebound as diplomacy ramps up.
Raffles Istanbul Deputy General Manager Burak Unan echoed the fact that bookings accelerated following Erdoğan’s visit to the UAE.
“There is particularly an increase in forward-looking demand. We will see more of this tourist profile in the city starting in May,” Unan said.
Stressing the UAE is a relatively small market, and thus, does not greatly contribute to the number of overnight stays, Unan said they however opt for luxury or suite rooms as they arrive with their families.
“Because the prices are high in these places, they automatically increase the room income. On average, they stay from four to seven nights,” he said.
“They like to come and eat and shop in good places,” he added.