Turkey’s tourism revenues fell 40 percent and foreign visitor arrivals dropped 54 percent in the first quarter, data showed on Friday, as coronavirus-driven travel restrictions continued to hit a sector crucial to foreign currency inflows.
Last year, the country’s tourism income plunged two thirds to just over $12 billion as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated an industry which generally accounts for up to 12 percent of the economy.
Forex brought in by tourists is key to financing Turkey’s usually gaping current account gap, which swung to a $36.7 billion deficit last year.
In the first quarter, revenues dropped to $2.45 billion, the Turkish Statistical Institute said. Foreign arrivals in Turkey fell to 905,322 in the same period, the Tourism Ministry said.
However in March, arrivals climbed 26 percent from a year earlier.
The first coronavirus cases were recorded in mid-March last year and immediately put the brakes on tourist arrivals.
Concerns about this year’s tourism season in Turkey have been fueled by a surge in coronavirus cases since early March to a peak of some 63,000 daily cases in mid-April. Turkey ranks fourth globally in terms of daily case numbers.
In a bid to curb the outbreak and boost the prospects of tourists returning this year, Turkey entered a lockdown on Thursday evening which will last until May 17.
Tourism hopes were dented this month when Russia said it would restrict flights to and from Turkey until June 1 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, in a move coinciding with growing tensions between the two countries.
Russia is the biggest source of foreign visitors, with around 6 million Russians visiting Turkey annually before 2020.
The total number of visitors to Turkey tumbled 69 percent last year to less than 16 million people, of which 12.7 million were foreigners.