Turkish airports swarmed with travellers as summer spree in full swing

 Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Türkiye’s major airports have been packed with foreign holidaymakers bound mainly for Istanbul and the Mediterranean resorts, as the tourism season gains further pace despite the sweltering summer.

The massive influx of tourists and other travellers has made Istanbul Airport the busiest civil aviation hub in Europe, while the second airport in the Turkish metropolis and the one serving the southern tourism gem of Antalya have registered the highest daily passenger numbers ever.

Istanbul Airport saw an average of 1,487 daily flights in the July 10-16 week, making it the busiest airport in Europe, with Türkiye’s flag carrier among the airlines performing the most daily flights, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloğlu said Sunday, citing the pan-European network manager Eurocontrol data.

Turkish Airlines came in third with 1,616 daily flights on average in the seven-day period, the data showed.

This year’s tourism momentum has been driven by an influx of holidaymakers from Europe, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, besides arrivals from Russia, partly due to flight restrictions imposed by Western nations over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Antalya Airport serving the Mediterranean resort city saw 1,018 flights per day on average from July 10 through July 16, said Uraloğlu, ranking seventh in the world.

Istanbul Airport and Antalya Airport exceeded their pre-COVID-19 performances with 18% and 9% increases, respectively, the minister added.

Separate data showed Antalya Airport served 1,116 flights and 210,144 passengers on Saturday, marking an all-time daily high for the province.

Antalya has seen more than 7 million tourists arriving by air as of mid-July. They continue to update records every week, Governor Ersin Yazıcı wrote on the social media.

Yazıcı said 99,149 passengers on international flights landed in the province on Saturday, an all-time high.

This year is becoming a year of records for our Antalya, he noted.

Meanwhile, Sabiha Gökçen Airport on Istanbul’s Asian side on Sunday served 686 flights and 124,478 passengers, marking an all-time high, the airport operator HEAŞ data showed.

ISG CEO Berk Albayrak said the intensity demonstrated a very productive season for the tourism sector. They are setting new records almost every week as Sabiha Gökçen Airport, he said in a statement.

Signaling a continued momentum within the critical industry that serves as a vital source of income for the economy, more than 14 million foreign visitors arrived in Türkiye from January through May, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry data, marking a 23.7% year-over-year surge.

Tourism revenue is critical as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government focus on reducing the current account deficit to tackle stubborn inflation.

Last year’s complete rebound from the pandemic fallout saw the number of tourists near a record, generating all-time high revenues and prompting the government to raise its annual estimates.

The government sees foreign arrivals reaching 60 million this year, which it estimates will hit 90 million in 2028. For the income, it sees it rising to $56 billion this year and $100 billion five years from now.

Foreign visitors surged 80.33% to 44.6 million in 2022, just shy of the peak of 45.1 million in 2019. The figure is compared to the 24.71 million arrivals in 2021 and 12.73 million in 2020.

Revenues climbed 53.4% to a record high of nearly $46.3 billion as lingering pandemic effects dissipated and Russian arrivals rocketed after Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Last year’s income blew past the previous high of $38.4 billion in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

The figure stood at $30.2 billion in 2021 after the outbreak more than halved it to just $14.8 billion in 2020.

Tourism contributes about 10% to Türkiye’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In addition, around 1.7 million people worked in accommodation and food services in 2022 – about 5% of total employment.

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