The Turkish outbound travel market: what’s hot in 2017?

A hugely popular holiday destination, Turkey’s inbound tourism market is a vital sector of the country’s economy. But where do Turkish citizens go for their breaks and how is its outbound market faring?

Alongside the recovery in Turkey’s inbound sector, the number of Turkish tourists travelling abroad is rising. Overall figures have expanded steadily over the past 15 years, from 3.6 million tourists venturing abroad in 2003 to 8 million in 2016.

Where are Turkish tourists travelling to?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top spot goes to Greece. The number of those traveling to Greece over the past 15 years has soared from 170,000 in 2003 to 898,000 in 2015 before falling slightly to 785,000 in 2016. This is a staggering 362% increase.

Greece has remained the firm favourite in 2017. A record 739,000 Turkish citizens stayed in Greece over the first nine months of 2017, a huge jump from 635,000 in the same period in 2016. The number is expected to exceed 1 million by the end of the year.

Ankara’s decision in August to extend the four-day Eid al-Adha to 10 days benefitted the Greek tourism sector enormously. Of the 1 million Turkish tourists who travelled domestically and internationally during the period, 10% went to Greece.

Hotspots for Turkish tourists include Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, the Greek islands, Athens, and other areas in Northern Greece, while the Greek island of Lipsi saw as many Turkish tourists as its own population of 600 people over the Eid al-Adha holidays.

“It’s not just Greece’s location that keeps Turkish people interested, but also the similarities in our cultures. Affordable prices are also a very important factor,” said Gulberk Asyapar, Head of the Department of Greek Affairs of Turkey’s Association of Tourist Agents (TURSAB).

Other popular destinations among Turkish tourists include Georgia (with almost 1.2 million trips in 2016), Bulgaria (780,000 trips in 2016), Germany (531,000), the USA (313,000), Iran (240,000), and Italy (215,000).

As of 1 June 2017, Turkish citizens can now travel to Ukraine with just an ID card for up to 90 days. Andrii Sybiha, Ukraine’s ambassador in Ankara told reporters “Last year, more than 1 million tourists came from Ukraine to Turkey and more than 200,000 Turkish tourists travelled to Ukraine. Thanks to this agreement, we expect a 30% increase in these numbers this year.”

The extended Eid al-Adha holidays were a boost to this two-way tourism flow, overlapping with Ukraine’s Independence Day break.

Another destination that increased its popularity among Turkish tourists this year is Serbia. 15% more Turkish citizens visited Serbia in September compared to September 2016, making Turkey Serbia’s largest source market for the period.

What can we expect in the future?

In October, Uzbekistan announced it would be simplifying its visa requirements for Turkish citizens, enabling visas to be processed within three working days and without the need for an official invitation from the Uzbek State Committee for Tourism Development.

Russia too is said to be considering reinstating its visa-free travel policy for Turkish citizens, so we could see an uplift in more Turkish tourists heading to Uzbekistan and Russia in the future.