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Middle East

Is Turkey overcoming its tourism slump?

Empty beaches? Maybe last year. Despite numerous crises, Turkey is still a favorite vacation destination for Germans. Nevertheless, compared to previous record years, tourism numbers are down.

An attempted coup, terror attacks and continued wars of words between German and Turkish politicians - who would want to vacation in Turkey? The surprising answer: A whole lot of people. Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has just presented its spring statistics. The result: More tourists traveled to the country in April 2017 than at any time since May 2015. Numbers were up by 20 percent compared to the beginning of the year. Next to Russians, Germans represent the majority of foreign vacationers in Turkey.

"Families especially," Thorsten Schäfer of the German Travel Association (DRV) told DW, "like to take all-inclusive vacations on the Turkish Riviera and the Aegean coast. Investors have poured huge sums of money into building massive hotel complexes to meet the demand over the past several years. Moreover, the Turkish government has expanded the country's tourism infrastructure as well as improving its overall transport infrastructure."

The Kremlin Palace Hotel in Antalya (picture alliance/Arco Images)

Antalya is home to the Kremlin Palace hotel: Russian tourists have long visited Turkey's southern coast

Crisis year 2016

The tourism industry is an important economic factor in Turkey. Traditionally, the sector, which generates some 13 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), has been a reliable source of income. That all changed last year: First there was the terror attack in Istanbul in early 2016, in which Germans were killed, and then came the failed coup in July.

The tourism industry suffered a shock that saw a decline of almost 40 percent in generated income. Almost 4 million Germans vacationed in Turkey in 2016. That was 2 million less than in 2015, a record year.

Empty beaches in Turkey (picture alliance/ZB/J. Kalaene)

Tourists stayed away in 2016, leaving many of Turkey's beaches empty

Cheap prices: Things are looking up

In 2017 the industry seems to be on the rebound. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted a short-term ban on charter flights to Turkey. By this spring the number of Russians traveling to Turkey had quintupled.

As summer vacation begins in a number of German states, more and more German tourists are once again heading to Turkey. Thorsten Schäfer says that "last minute deciders" are showing a tendency to book their summer vacation in Turkey.

One reason that so many Germans are happy to book Turkish vacations is no doubt the low price of doing so. Schäfer avoids using the term "dumping prices." He prefers to put it differently, emphasizing that, "besides deals that give good value for a low price, tour organizers are currently offering very attractive holiday packages."

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