According to data released by the Turkish Consulate General Cultural and Information Office in Dubai, 1,226,665 Middle East travelers landed in Turkey between January and June 2017. During the same period, travel to Turkey has grown by 10%, and an estimated annual growth of 20.5% by the end of the year.
Tourist traffic to Turkey from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) resident and nationals (GCC) continued to show strength, rising 26.29% as compared to 2016,
or an estimated 360 thousand travelers. The number of United Arab Emirates citizens and residents traveling to Turkish destinations increased by 9.86%. While Kuwaiti traveler numbers increased by 41.04% and 31.86% from Bahrain.
“We expect GCC traveler traffic to Turkey to continue its strong growth over the coming six months,” says Salih Ozer, Attaché of Culture and Information, Turkey to the UAE. “Turkey continues to be a leading destination for GCC travelers due to our close cultural, religious and diplomatic ties with the region.”
The UAE figures are particularly striking. The first six months of last 2016 saw a decrease of 20.99% in traveler traffic from the UAE to Turkey, and this year recovered to increase by 10%, or over 18 thousand travelers. The Holy Month of Ramadan played a big part where UAE travel into Turkey increased by 330.33%.
Travelers from Saudi Arabia lead the way however, with over 205 thousand holidaymakers, followed by Kuwait and Bahrain with 94 thousand and 23 thousand respectively. Tourists from the UAE showed continued interest in Turkey with over 18 thousand travelers landing in the country between January and June.
“As Turkey’s temperate summer continues to attract GCC travelers looking to get away from the desert heat, we found that business travel has also picked over the past few years,“ continued Ozer. “This increased intensity in travel illustrates the substantial bridge of commercial and trade links between Turkey and the region.”
The greatest increase in the Gulf countries is observed in Kuwait as always. Kuwait, which is the Gulf country that sends the most tourists to Turkey after Saudi Arabia every year, closed this year with an increase of 41.04%, over 94 thousand people over the same time period.
Flights from Kuwait did not only head towards the traditional destinations such as Istanbul and Antalya, but to alternative ones such as Bursa and Izmir. “We organized a tourism workshop in Kuwait this year to develop tourism relations between our country and Kuwait. We met with local tourism sector representatives to discuss the challenges and opportunities.”
Similar to last year, Bahrain so far this year saw traveler traffic grow by 31.86%, or about 24 thousand people. “We see serious demand for Turkey in Bahrain and we are working to reinforce our cultural and tourism ties by organising activities like workshops and Turkish Food festivals,:” he concluded.
The most visited site in Istanbul was the Hagia Sophia, the Orthodox basilica turned imperial mosque, which graces the city’s amazing skyline. That was followed by the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque as it’s popularly known, and finally, the Topkapı Palace that served as the Ottman Empire’s administrative headquarters in the 15th century.
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