Tourists visit the Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 6, 2019. Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul allured a record number of tourists during the first five months of this year, thanks to an environment of peace, affordable prices and diversified tourism products. Between January and May, 5.4 million foreigners visited Istanbul, marking a year-on-year increase of 11 percent, according to the data unveiled by the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism. (Xinhua/Xu Suhui)
ISTANBUL, July 17 (Xinhua) — Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul allured a record number of tourists during the first five months of this year, thanks to an environment of peace, affordable prices and diversified tourism products.
Between January and May, 5.4 million foreigners visited Istanbul, marking a year-on-year increase of 11 percent, according to the data unveiled by the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism.
For Ali Can Aksu, head of the Turkish Hotel Managers Association, the most significant factor behind the increase is the creation of a peaceful environment for hosting tourists in the city.
The data shows that Istanbul has dressed its wounds of the attempted coup in 2016, and several bloody terror attacks which targeted the city since the summer of 2015, according to Aksu.
“Istanbul has also become one of the most affordable tourist destinations in the world, attracting people from diverse nationalities interested in shopping as well as culture and history,” Aksu pointed out.
The Turkish lira crashed against the U.S. dollar of 35-40 percent last year due to several factors, including various disputes in the international arena and internal economic volatility.
Germany topped the list by sending 394,925 visitors to Istanbul, a 4.8-percent year-on-year increase, followed by Iran (337,428) and Russia (290,985).
The number of Russian tourists increased by 17.9 percent compared with the same period last year, while the number of Iranian tourists fell by 17.7 percent, the data revealed.
“Iran has been experiencing an economic crisis,” Aksu explained, saying the purchasing power of Iranian people has significantly dropped.
Another significant decline was observed in the number of Saudi Arabian tourists, as it plunged by 33.2 percent to 122,115 from 182,689.
Aksu said Saudi tourists started to shun Turkey after the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate building in Istanbul last year.
“Istanbul is slowly pulling itself out from the hegemony of the Middle Eastern countries and facing towards Europe and the Far East,” Aksu continued.
The number of tourists coming from almost all European countries, especially Spain, France, Italy, Serbia and the Netherlands, have seen a significant increase during the first five months.
Meanwhile, The number of Chinese tourists increased by 5.6 percent to 148,658 from 140,835, while the number of tourists from South Korea and India grew by 39.2 percent and 55.6 percent respectively.
Last year, Istanbul hosted a total of 13.4 million foreign visitors from 199 countries.
Firuz Baglikaya, head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, said the figure is expected to hit 15 million at the end of this year.
“Istanbul is one of the most important centers in the world in urban tourism domain,” Baglikaya told Xinhua. “The first choice of our foreign guests visiting our country is Istanbul, which spans over two continents, Asia and Europe.”
The Maiden’s Tower, a medieval Byzantine period tower lying on a small islet on the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower, Ottoman-era palaces, and the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest and oldest covered bazaar, are the shining stars of the city, according to Baglikaya.
“Furthermore, historical and modern museums, churches, and mosques stand as the most precious wealth of the city,” he said.
In his view, the diversified tourism products, such as the growing gastronomy tourism sector and health tourism, are also contributing to Istanbul‘s fame in a significant way.
The two English premier league rivals, Liverpool and Chelsea, will also meet in Istanbul on August 14 for the UEFA Super Cup final match, alluring around 40,000 fans from across the world for the single day.
“Social media is now a powerful promotional tool. As soccer fans the beauties they see in Istanbul, interest in our city increases in a significant way,” Baglikaya remarked.