More than 1.2 million Middle East travellers landed in Turkey in the first half of 2017, according to data released by the Turkish Consulate General Cultural and Information Office in Dubai.
During the same period, travel to Turkey has grown by ten per cent and is expected to see an estimated annual growth of 20.5 per cent by the end of the year.
Tourist traffic to Turkey from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by travellers from Saudi Arabia, continued to show strength, rising by 26.29 per cent between January and June, as compared to the same period in 2016, or an estimated 360,000 travellers.
The number of UAE citizens and residents travelling to Turkish destinations increased by 9.86 per cent while Kuwaiti traveller numbers increased by 41.04 per cent and 31.86 per cent from Bahrain.
Growth to continue
“We expect GCC traveller 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 travellers due to our close cultural, religious and diplomatic ties with the region,” Ozer adds.
The UAE figures are particularly striking. The first six months of 2016 saw a decrease of 20.99 per cent in traveller traffic from the UAE to Turkey. This year, that number recovered to increase by ten per cent – or more than 18,000 travellers.
The holy month of Ramadan played a big part, as UAE travel into Turkey increased by 330.33 per cent during the period.
KSA in the lead
Travellers from Saudi Arabia lead the way, with more than 205,000 holidaymakers, followed by Kuwait and Bahrain with 94,000 and 23,000 respectively.
“As Turkey’s temperate summer continues to attract GCC travellers 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 most visited site in Istanbul was the Hagia Sophia, the Orthodox basilica turned imperial mosque, which graces the city’s amazing skyline. This was followed by the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – or Blue Mosque, as it’s popularly known – and, finally, the Topkapı Palace, which served as the Ottman Empire’s administrative headquarters in the 15th century.