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Turkey's tourism income doubles as trade deficit narrows

With 30 million foreign visitors, Turkey's tourism revenues hit $25bn target, despite the ongoing pandemic
A Ukranian tourist poses for a picture near the Hagia Sophia Mosque at Sultanahmet in Istanbul on 9 May 2021 (AFP)

Turkey’s tourism income doubled to $25bn last year and its trade deficit fell 7.5 percent year-on-year to $46.13bn in 2021 amid a currency crisis in the country and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year began a new economic policy “to support exports and domestic growth” that aims to reach a current account surplus. Tourism income has become more important to boost the Central Bank’s depleted international reserves.

The new economic policy, which is based on a lower interest rate, accelerated lira’s loss of value by 44 percent to the dollar last year but also powered exports to historic highs

Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute, TUIK, indicated on Monday that tourism revenues jumped by 103 percent to $24.4bn, recovering to pre-pandemic levels. 

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For example, in the fourth quarter, income increased 95 percent to $7.6bn, only three percent below the level in October-December 2019 - the last quarter before the coronavirus began having an impact.

The number of foreign arrivals also increased 88 percent to 30 million last year. 

Russia provided the most tourists, sending 4.6 million visitors, with Germany in second with three million and Ukraine in third, with two million. 

Tourist spending per capita also increased to $834 in 2021 from $762 in 2020.

Muberra Eresin, the chairman of Touristic Hotels and Investors Association, told Turkish media that Turkey met its 2021 targets with 30 million visitors and $25bn in revenue. “We are also very hopeful about 2022, aiming to grow with double digits,” she said. 

Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said last month that the government aims to reach $35bn tourism revenue for 2022, a 40 percent increase. 

Meanwhile, the foreign trade deficit dropped 7.5 percent year-on-year to $46.1bn last year, with exports increasing 32.8 percent and imports rising 23.6 percent. 

The markets welcomed the data on Tuesday, with the lira stabilising 13.38 against the dollar.  

The lira was some 1.4 percent stronger at 13.34 against the dollar after the release of the figures.

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