Türkiye has seen the number of passengers arriving via cruise ships exceed the 1 million mark in the first nine months of the year, according to official data, reaffirming the buoyant tourism season that is likely to end at a new all-time high.
Tourism is a critical source of income for Türkiye, which, over the years, injected vast investments to ensure its ports can host the luxury mega-sized ships seeking to become a premier destination for cruise enthusiasts and travelers alike.
Nearly 1.1 million tourists have arrived at Türkiye’s ports onboard the cruise ships in the January-September period, marking a 54.1% year-over-year increase, according to the data compiled by the Directorate General of Maritime Affairs.
Officials said they expect that figure by the end of the year, as bookings witnessed a resurgence after the COVID-19 pandemic caused luxury liners to mothball.
Some 876 cruise ships docked at Turkish ports in the first nine months, a 16.5% year-over-year increase compared to the 752 that arrived a year ago.
The Aegean resort town of Kuşadası alone welcomed more than half of the passengers, hosting 603,876 cruise tourists, a 66% increase from the 361,876 count a year ago.
Istanbul followed with 261,088 passengers, a 48.5% increase, while Bodrum, one of the most popular holiday destinations in southwestern Muğla province, sits third with 70,651 tourists.
Çeşme, a renowned Aegean resort town in the western province of Izmir, welcomed 50,898 passengers, while the Mediterranean tourism gem Antalya received 19,363 tourists.
Tourism communications expert Sarp Özkar emphasized the recent surge in cruise tourism, suggesting that the industry could reach the ambitious target of 1.5 million passengers this year.
Addressing the impact of the Israel-Palestine conflict on the sector, Özkar noted that tour operators in Türkiye incorporating Israel into their routes had canceled existing tours and quotas.
“The tour operators’ executives chose to cancel their tours in response to attacks targeting civilians, reaching the level of genocide, rather than relying on the assumption that people wouldn’t travel to Israel under these circumstances,” he noted.
Overall, some 33.4 million tourists arrived in Türkiye in January-August, marking a nearly 14% year-over-year jump, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry data.
The government anticipates 60 million foreign arrivals and income rising to $56 billion this year as it focuses on curbing the chronic current account deficit.
Source: Daily Sabah