Iranians top visitors to Turkey as tourism surges

Iranian nationals were the top visitors to Turkey in January as the country’s tourism industry recovered from a slump.

Overall arrivals surged 38 percent from a year earlier to 1.46 million, the Tourism Ministry in Ankara said on Wednesday. Visitors from Iran surged 52 percent to 154,296, putting the country ahead of Georgia, Bulgaria and traditional leader Germany in the rankings of total tourists. The number of German visitors rose 10 percent, below European averages, amid political tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

Turkey is seeking to boost tourism from outside its traditional markets in Europe as it works to finance a ballooning current account deficit that reached 5.6 percent of economic output in 2017, and relations with Europe deteriorate. The tourism industry, centred around Istanbul, and the resort towns of Antalya and Bodrum, is recovering after political tensions with Russia, sparked by the downing of a Russian military jet in November 2015, abated and bomb attacks that year were not repeated.

Visitors from major European countries rose an average 26 percent, lagging an increase in tourists from the Middle East of 62 percent, the data showed. Arrivals from Eastern European countries climbed 50 percent.

Arrivals from the United States fell 4.5 percent to 18,278 amid a political crisis over U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria and a Turkish military incursion into the country.