Hopes are running high among Turkish tourism companies that the country may finally lure more tourists from China as Beijing this week lifted a COVID-era ban on outbound group tours to foreign countries.
Turkiye has the potential to attract Chinese travelers, particularly via cultural tourism, experts said, noting that the long-term target is to welcome as many as 1 million tourists from China.
Some 500,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit the country next year, according to people from the industry.
“From now on, travel agencies across the country and online travel companies will resume operating outbound group tours” to more than 70 countries,” the Chinese Culture and Tourism Ministry said in a statement on Aug. 10. Among those countries is Turkiye.
Chinese tourists are big spenders and are very much interested in cultural tours,said the people from the tourism sector.
More tourist inflows from China should be expected after the ban has been lifted, said Hamit Kuk, an advisor to the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).
Around 1-2 million Chinese tourists may visit Turkiye in the next couple of years, according to Kuk.
The main destinations for Chinese tourists are Cappadocia, Pamukkale, which is famous for its mineral-rich thermal waters and white travertine terraces, and Istanbul, Kuk said.
“You do not see them [Chinese tourists] on the beaches. They are luxury shoppers and like gambling. Special tours to Turkish Cyprus could be arranged specifically targeting Chinese travelers,” he said.
Less than 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkiye last year due to the COVID-related restrictions, noted Ali Onaran from Prontotour.
“With the ban lifted, the number of Chinese tourists may climb to 200,000 this year. I think, tourist arrivals from China will increase to 500,000 next year China will become an important market for us,” Onaran said.
In the first six months of 2023, around 89,000 Chinese visited Turkiye, accounting for only 0.2 percent of all foreign tourist arrivals.
In 2019, Turkiye welcomed some 430,000 Chinese travelers but tourist arrivals from China dropped sharply to 40,000 in 2020 and further down to 34,000 in the following year.