Turkey earned 10.6 percent more revenue from tourists visiting the country last year compared to a year earlier, its official statistics bureau said on Monday. According to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat), the country's tourism revenue was at $23 billion in 2011, up from $20.8 billion two years ago. It also said more than 36 million foreign nationals visited Turkey last year. The same figure was 33 million in 2010. The official data suggest that each foreign visitor spent $637 on average in the country in 2011. This is slightly up from 2010's $630.
Tourism revenue is highly important for Turkey since its economy produces a wide current account deficit (CAD) because of its heavy dependence on foreign energy and intermediate goods as it embarks on a swift growth, particularly in the past decade. Its CAD is currently some 9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and the fiscal and monetary measures prove only partially effective in countering the rise of this gap, as a result of which its international reserves continue to bleed out.
With the country’s prospect of finding rich oil and natural gas reserves unknown and advancing its industry requiring extensive R&D investments, the sum it earns each year from foreign visitors, therefore, is actually one of the few ways Turkey can effectively use in its fight against the CAD. The amount of money Turkish nationals spent overseas also increased last year, albeit at a much slower pace, to nearly $5 billion from $4.8 billion in 2010. The number of Turks who traveled abroad decreased from 6.6 million in 2010 to 6.3 million in 2011. These numbers suggest that the average Turkish visitor spent some $790 overseas last year, up from $735 a year earlier. A total of $23 billion in tourism revenue minus $5 billion in Turkish spending overseas is the sum written on the plus side of the country’s current account. Given Turkey’s constantly growing reputation as a globally cherished holiday destination, it is not unlikely that over the next few years inbound tourism figures may well reach beyond the 40 and even the 50 million mark, but the question is whether such a high number will be sustainable both from an environmental and a business administration perspective. Diversification could well be the answer, directing future visitors, not only to the well-established sunshine belt, but much further inland, too. City tourism attracting visitors to İstanbul and other metropolises as well as mid-sized destinations, eco-tourism, health tourism, winter tourism and faith tourism are only a few such possibilities at this point.