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Turks decide there is no place like home for a holiday

Istanbul Turkish tourism Mert Kahveci/Unsplash
Fitch says change in economic policy could reduce financial instability in the near term
  • Domestic tourists spend $826m in Q1 2023
  • Food and drink are highest expenditure
  • Growth in domestic tourism could help poorer parts of country

A sharp decline in the lira has boosted domestic tourism in Turkey as a growing number of people opt to holiday at home.

Turks are spending more money than ever on food and drink and helping to spread the country’s wealth to poorer, rural areas, analysts have observed.

In the first quarter of 2023, Turks made 10 million trips of more than one night inside the country, an increase of 14.5 percent on the same period in 2022, according to newly released data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TSI).

Expenditure increased by 83 percent, reaching 22.27 billion lira ($826 million), with holidaymakers spending an average of $80 per trip.

Vincenzo Zappino, senior partner at Target Euro, a consultancy focused on social and economic growth through tourism, told AGBI that for Turks in 2023, “it is much more expensive to go abroad”.

The lira’s value against the dollar has dropped by 33 percent in the last year alone, and has tumbled by 80 percent in the past five years. One US dollar currently buys 27 Turkish lira.

Zappino said the trend for Turks to stay at home could strengthen the country’s economy, particularly the regions that do not benefit from Turkey’s healthy foreign tourism industry.

“Domestic tourism is strategically extremely important for a country,” he said.

“It is much cheaper to reach this market compared with international tourists.”

Zappino added that marketing, staff training and the facilities and activities on offer are more cost efficient as they can be of a lower standard than those demanded by international tourists.

Much of Turkish wealth is concentrated in only a few locations. Istanbul, for example, is home to 20 percent of the Turkish population and boasts a 30 percent share of the country’s GDP.

Holidays at home help to disperse money to places that do not receive Istanbul’s annual influx of foreign tourists, Zappino said.

“Domestic tourism is extremely important to diversify and spread the impact of the tourism industry to poorer or less developed destinations,” he said.

The data suggests that much of this wealth transfer could happen when Turks spend their cash in local eateries.

The largest expenditure was on food: 35 percent of their money went toward eating and drinking. 

This figure has more than doubled year on year, climbing 117 percent, outstripping expenditure growth on transport and accommodation.

“We can say that gastronomy tourism is the strongest field of our country,” said Gürkan Boztepe, president of the Gastronomy Tourism Association in Istanbul.

“Since there are seven regions in our country and it includes 12,000 years of history and civilizations. Each region’s food is different.” 

He said cities that stand out for gastronomy include Gaziantep — which is known as the country’s food capital — Hatay, Afyon, Kayseri, Adana, Balikesir, Diyarbakir and Konya.

None of these regions, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute, contribute more than 2.5 percent of the annual Turkish GDP.