Turkey inflating tourism figures, says former tourism minister

Turkey’s official tourism figures are inflated due to a new tourist designation system, which also explains the lack of corresponding tourism revenue, former tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay told the Independent Turkish on Tuesday.

Turkey’s Tourism Ministry has devised a new system which considers those arriving in Turkey for work or day trips through border gates as tourists, Günay said, noting that they fail to fit the bill of a tourist as they do not spend money in the country.

Turkey announced over 10 million tourist arrivals in 2020, despite a months-long halt in the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to pose a threat.

But according to Günay, who served as tourism minister between 2007 and 2013, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been inflating numbers in recent years to boost morale.

Turkey was visited by 32 million tourists in 2013, which brought the country around $ 30 billion in revenue. Visitors in 2019 spiked to 50 million while tourism revenue stayed the same.

“This is proof that a portion of visitors do not fit the description of a tourist,” Günay said.

Turkey reopened to foreign tourists in June after shutting down in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But the country’s recent increase in recorded infections has raised concerns of further epidemic restrictions and negative effects on the country’s hard-hit tourism industry.