Turkey’s cities and coastal resorts are expecting an acceleration in tourism unseen since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as they gear up for an influx for the upcoming Ramadan Bayram.
Locals and foreign tourists are set to pack hotels, particularly in the southern Mediterranean tourism gem Antalya, where industry officials say bookings for the holiday, also known as Eid al-Fıtr, have soared and occupancy rates have already reached 80% on average with still a week to go.
Turkey shut facilities in 2020 due to the pandemic, implementing a curfew last year.
“After a two-year break, this will be the most dynamic Ramadan Bayram. This period will be a real feast for us,” said Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB) deputy chief Kaan Kavaloğlu.
The three-day Ramadan Bayram will start on Monday, May 2, but many plan to embark on their trips as of Friday, April 29.
Ülkay Atmaca, head of Turkey’s Professional Hotel Managers Association (POYD), echoed Kavaloğlu’s remarks, stressing the intense demand.
Yet, the eyes of the industry are still on Russia and Ukraine, Turkey’s top tourist sources.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to impact the crucial industry, just as the travel sector was looking to rebound from the pandemic.
Russians and Ukrainians are the country’s first and third biggest sources of visitors, respectively. Russians accounted for 19% of foreign visitors in 2021, with 4.7 million people, while Ukraine was the third-largest at 8.3% with 2.1 million people.
The military campaign prompted some hotels to postpone their openings, said Kavaloğlu.
“Almost all of the hotels are opening with Eid al-Fitr. Therefore, it will provide hotels with an 80% occupancy rate on average. This is a very large occupancy rate for this period,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
“It will be a very good Ramadan Bayram. Vacationers have a high demand for the holiday,” said Atmaca.
Hacı Osman Üçdan, chairperson of the board of the luxury hotel group Granada, said they are full for Ramadan Bayram.
“We cannot take any new reservations as we are 100% full for Ramadan Bayram,” Üçdan noted.
Cem Kınay, a famous tourism pioneer, stressed that global travel is on track to return to normal levels after the pandemic and that this is reflected in Turkey as well.
Officials had hoped that with pandemic restrictions easing, tourism could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019 when some 52 million visitors – including about 7 million Russians and 1.6 million Ukrainians – brought $34 billion in revenue.
“The Eid will be celebrated as a return to the pre-pandemic period,” Kınay noted.