With cruise trips becoming more attractive compared to the soaring hotel and transportation prices, experts believe cruise tourism will experience its golden season this summer as 1.5 million tourists are likely to come to Türkiye by cruise.
Stating that Türkiye needs to diversify in order to make a big leap in tourism, experts emphasized that cruise ships create added value in this sense. Investments made in Türkiye in recent years have brought the country to the forefront of cruise tourism.
According to the data of the Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry, the number of cruise passengers increased 22 times in 2022 and exceeded 1 million. On the other hand, Türkiye hosted 993 ships in its ports last year. This number means a 12-fold increase compared to 2021.
Tourism experts said that in recent years, domestic tourists also believe that visiting the Aegean and Greek islands by cruise ships is both an economical and more comprehensive vacation.
Tamer Kıran, Chairman of the Board of the IMEAK Chamber of Shipping, pointed out that 993 cruise ships and 1,010,767 passengers arrived in Turkish ports in 2022.
“Compared to the pre-pandemic period, there was an increase of 197 percent in the number of ships arriving last year. In line with the 2023 targets, the number of cruise passengers planning to come to our ports is expected to reach 1.5 million.”
According to Kıran, in addition to Istanbul, Kuşadası and Bodrum, there will be a higher demand for Çeşme, Çanakkale, İzmir, Antalya, Marmaris and Fethiye this season.
Özgü Alnıtemiz, the director of Karavan Tourism Cruises and Celestyal Cruises, stated that the demand for cruise trips to Istanbul, once removed from the route of cruises, is on the rise again and that this year, 200 ships and 400,000 passengers are expected only at Galataport.
“While hotel and transportation costs for domestic tourists are increasing, cruise trips maintain their attractiveness in price despite the increase in foreign currency. In addition, compared to domestic holiday options, cruise programs that offer five-star holiday comfort at international standards are also economically advantageous,” Alnıtemiz said.
Highlighting the Schengen visa-related problems Turks are facing, Alnıtemiz noted that this affects the cruise sector as well and that Turkish travelers should have their visas in hand before planning their trips to avoid problems later.
More than 3.4 million foreign tourists arrived by air in Antalya, one of Türkiye’s popular holiday destinations on the Mediterranean coast, between January and May.
In 2019, when both Türkiye and Antalya hosted a record number of foreign tourists, 3.3 million international holidaymakers visited the city in the first five months of that year.
But tourist arrivals by air plunged to a little more than 512,000 in the same period of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global travel and tourism industries.
In the first five months of 2021, however, foreign tourist inflows into the city bounced back to 2.4 million.
In May alone, around 1.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Antalya by air, which was more than the number of holidaymakers vacationing in the city in the same periods of 2021 and 2022 combined.
Germans remained at the top of the list of foreign tourists. In the first five months of 2023, nearly 823,000 German nationals visited Antalya, accounting for 26.3 percent of all international arrivals.
Russians claimed the second spot at 784,000 visitors and a 24.9 percent share in total, followed by Britons at more than 352,000.
Among other top visitors were Poles, Dutch, Lithuanians, Kazakhs, Israelis, Belgians and Ukrainians.
The latest data from the Culture and Tourism Ministry showed that foreign tourist arrivals in Türkiye grew 27.5 percent year-on-year in the January-April period to 9.53 million. In April alone, foreign tourist visits leaped 29 percent from a year ago to stand at 3.32 million.