Evaluating the state of tourism in Türkiye and its competing destinations, President of the Mediterranean Association of Touristic Hoteliers and Operators (AKTOB) Kaan Kavaloğlu shared insights with Emin Demir from Turizmdays. Kavaloğlu emphasized the necessity not only to continue existing efforts to attract tourists but also to undertake new initiatives to stay ahead of competitors. He remarked, “When it comes to service quality and cost-benefit analysis, consumers find better value in our offerings. Spain is entering tourism restrictions. The same applies to Southern France. Greece is engaging in the costly tourism model of island tourism, which doesn’t stand a chance against us in terms of competition. North African countries don’t have a chance to compete with us under normal conditions.”

“Spain and France are experiencing tourism complacency”

Highlighting Türkiye’s superior service quality compared to Spain, France, Greece, and Italy, Kavaloğlu pointed out, “Spain and France, having reaped substantial benefits from tourism for a long period, are now experiencing what can only be described as tourism complacency. There’s a certain ease that comes from generating significant income for so long. The European Union also plays a significant role in fostering tourism movement within these countries. We achieve these numbers through correct actions and smart strategies. However, in terms of political perception and reaching out to people, marketing must play a crucial role. The markets in Belgium and the Netherlands are not looking good. Last year, for the first time, the political perception dampened the Scandinavian market, which is crucial for Antalya and Türkiye. There’s significant potential in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. I believe we can tap into this. We will be successful when we can attract tourists not only from countries we currently do but also from those we haven’t yet.”

“The wind is blowing in our favor”

Pointing to ITB Berlin as one of the most important fairs for mass tourism movements, Kavaloğlu mentioned, “Looking at fairs like World Travel Market, Utrecht Tourism Fair, and EMITT, the data for 2024 looks positive. Between February 6 and March 15 last year, tourism was hardly a topic of discussion due to the tragic earthquake disaster. We tried to overcome it together. Antalya’s perception was not good; it became associated with the earthquake. But now, the wind is blowing in our favor. We’re seeing an increase, especially from the Balkan and Scandinavian markets that brought in fewer tourists last year.”

“Germany to take the top spot in Antalya”

Discussing the stagnant growth in the German market, Kavaloğlu stated, “Germany leads in early bookings and packaged tours, even ahead of Spain. However, it’s unlikely for Antalya to finish the year ahead of Spain. Yet, this year Antalya might see 4 million German tourists. Russians are Antalya’s number one partners. This year, Germany might take the top spot. But if the Ukraine-Russia conflict ends, Russia will continue to be Antalya and Türkiye’s top partner, though it might take a while to reach the numbers of 2019.

“The stagnation in the German market will end”

We managed to surpass the 2015 figures in the German market in 2023. The growth in the German market did not come homogeneously. While Antalya received 7.5 million tourists, 2.5 million were German. When the number of tourists to Antalya rose to 16 million, 6-7 million should have been Germans, but that was not the case. Antalya, in fact, did not grow in the German market. We couldn’t achieve this growth. It’s not only about tourism; politics also plays a role. Ninety percent of Germans visiting us have experienced Antalya at least once before. Considering that 57 million tourists depart from Germany, we need to strengthen our system there to capture a larger share.

“Russians may fall behind Germans”

If the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, Russians may fall behind Germans, Kavaloğlu noted. “The number of German tourists coming to Antalya could exceed 4 million. If Russia surpasses 4 million, Antalya will experience a record year in 2024. If the conflict persists, Russians might fall behind Germans. The British market will exceed 1.5 million this year in Antalya. Poland has already surpassed 1 million and will continue to grow without decline. The Ukrainian market won’t recover any time soon, but the number of Ukrainian visitors will increase. At the start of the conflict, the number of Ukrainian tourists dropped by 90%, then to 75%. This number will continue to rise. Ukraine won’t be one of our main markets for a long time.”

“The season will start early”

Kavaloğlu predicted an early start to the season, saying, “The season will start early, and I expect a revival in the domestic market. There are local elections. Unfortunately, election periods in Türkiye tend to be stressful. After the elections, there’s the Ramadan Feast, which will last 9 days. People can split their holiday into two or even three parts, making it a significant period for the domestic market. With Nowruz, followed by Easter and a long Ramadan Feast, we’ll start the season early. At the end of April, there’s the Dutch holiday, followed by the Russian and then the German holiday periods. This year, the number of tourists coming to Antalya will exceed 17 million. I believe Antalya will fulfill its duty in Türkiye’s goal of 60 million tourists and 60 billion dollars in revenue. The Tourism Development Agency (TGA) has a lot of work to do here. TGA is doing a lot of work. Germany will continue to rise with a positive trend. The stagnation will end.”