Speaking at the ‘Presidents’ Session’ moderated by Tourism Consultant Osman Ayık at the EMITT Tourism Fair, Müberra Eresin, President of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROB), shared her expectations for the 2024 tourism season.

“City hotel occupancies were not as we wished”

Eresin stated that hotel occupancies in 2023 were not at the desired level, saying, “As TÜROB, we try to represent city hotels. From time to time, the figures we provide do not match the figures of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The main reason for this is the high number of unregistered accommodations. In 2023, while tourist numbers and tourism revenue increased, there was a 10% decline in hotel occupancies. While our occupancy rates decreased, our room prices increased. The main reasons for the decline in city hotel occupancies, which started very well in 2022 but fell in 2023, include the earthquake and ongoing wars, resulting in lower-than-desired occupancies in city hotels, especially in Istanbul.”

“We have not found what we were hoping for in the first half”

For the year 2024, Eresin mentioned not seeing any movement until April, saying, “We went to Spain, France, Germany, and finally did a workshop in Saudi Arabia. Türkiye still ranks at the top of the most desired travel destinations. There is only one wish; for the war to end. It’s not really possible to talk about tourism where there is no peace. With the efforts of the Ministry, TGA, and NGOs, tourism can recover. This is being discussed in many countries. ‘How can Türkiye still do tourism despite these crises?’ In fact, we have not found what we were hoping for in the first half. I don’t see much movement until April. After April, this situation may calm down, and we may exceed our targets. We are focused on the goal of 60 million tourists and 60 billion in tourism revenue. We will not give up. We will go to China, India, Japan, Brazil. We foresee that 2024 will be a year not to be outdone by 2023.”

“We are collaborating with many institutions”

Speaking about their efforts to solve the employment problem, the TÜROB President said, “We are working to provide support in the field of both gastronomy and accommodation education to reduce the problems encountered in employment. We are trying to introduce the accommodation sector to our students and the public. We are conducting cooperation studies with many institutions to reduce our most serious problem, workforce shortage.”

“Every destination THY flies to is a new market for us”

Eresin shared that arrivals from Europe to Türkiye have decreased, but there has been an increase from distant destinations, saying, “One of our biggest differences is THY. Every destination THY flies to is a new market for us. Unfortunately, even though it seems that entries from Europe are decreasing, we observe an increase from distant destinations. Our focus markets are distant markets. There is a calmness in Europe. We don’t expect big increases from Europe while there is war with our neighbors.”

“There are competitors trying to pull the Middle Eastern tourist potential from us”

Eresin mentioned that there are competitors trying to attract the Middle Eastern tourist potential away from Türkiye, stating, “There are written concerns about the Middle Eastern market, but we did a workshop in Saudi Arabia and saw that the demand was very good. We need to end the black propaganda related to the Middle Eastern market. There are competitors trying to attract the tourist potential there to themselves; we will not allow this. There is potential for tourists to come from different destinations to Türkiye. We have started to receive a significant number of tourists from markets where THY does not fly. We expect these new markets to compensate for the losses from other markets.”

“There is unfair competition”

Eresin made the following statements about the Airbnb law:

“We are misunderstood by some. We are not against Airbnb. What we oppose is unregistered accommodation places. When you look today, there are many places that look like apartments but have a hotel sign on their door. Our goal is to include these places in the records. If the occupancy in accommodation facilities has dropped, the main reason is these unregistered places. When we examine the law issued by the Ministry, we see that the points we oppose are not there. The private sector already desires this situation. There is unfair competition. We are all accommodation facilities that ensure safety, obtain certificates, and pay taxes. When you look at these places, they have no documents, but there is a hotel sign on their door. With this regulation, we are equalizing the conditions. We are in favor of having any application available in the world also be available in Türkiye. When it comes to transportation, Uber comes to my mind. We want to underline this at every opportunity. There is a system used all over the world, and we want this system to be used in Türkiye as well. We want this application to be implemented as soon as possible, just like Airbnb.”

Eresin, mentioning one of Türkiye’s transportation problems being the lack of railways, stated, “We do not have a problem with air transportation to Türkiye. Our main problem is the railway. In many countries, there is a lot of rail transport between cities and countries. We should create more cost-effective transportation options. The overnight stay rate in cities is between 2.35 and 3. When you look at city destinations, the price offered by the accommodation facility in the travel package is not that important. Istanbul comes among the cities where accommodation can be made most affordably. We publish the data every month. There has been a 12% increase since last year, but Istanbul is not where it should be. Our city hotels should act sensitively.”

“Our hotel chains need to expand abroad”

Eresin emphasized the need for support for Turkish hotel chains to expand internationally, stating, “It is very difficult for the accommodation sector to receive support from Turquality at the moment. We have very successful hotel chains. We think that they need to be supported to expand abroad. The municipality, governorship, and ITO in Istanbul provide support, but more support is needed for tourism. We should promote our products more.”