Turkey's tourism earnings slump in first quarter

Turkey’s revenue from tourism slid by 40 percent annually in the first quarter of the year, the Turkish Statistical Institute said.

Earnings fell to $2.45 billion from $4.1 billion in January-March 2020, the institute said on Friday. The country earned $3.91 billion from tourism in the fourth quarter of last year.

Turkish hopes for a strong recovery in the industry have been dashed by a resurgence in the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and record numbers of cases at home. In January, Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy had predicted a V-shaped recovery for the sector, saying the government aimed to double visitor numbers to 31 million this year and draw in revenue of $23.3 billion.

The number of people visiting Turkey in the first quarter fell by an annual 54 percent to 2.6 million, the institute said.

The slump in visitor numbers means that tourism companies are among the worst affected by the COVID-10 pandemic. The firms owed banks 136.4 billion liras ($16.5 billion) at the end of 2020, an increase of 43 percent from the previous year, business news website Patronlar Dünyası reported this month. Employment in the sector has dropped by an annual 19 percent to 1.38 million people, it said.

Turkey needs revenue from tourism to help fund its current account deficit, which widened to more than 5 percent of GDP last year. Without the money, the country must fund the shortfall through other means, or pay for it by exchanging lira for foreign currency. The lira hit a record low in November of 8.58 per dollar. It traded at 8.25 per dollar on Friday.

Turkey earned $12.1 billion from tourism last year compared with a record $34.5 billion in 2019. It attracted 15.8 million visitors, down from 51.9 million in 2019.