In order to survive the slow tourism season of the holy month of Ramadan, in 2010 the Istanbul European Capital of Culture Agency held a series of artistic, cultural and culinary events for an international series entitled 'Ramadan Istanbul'. As a result, the number of Arab tourists to come to Turkey rose by 20 percent. The tradition continued in 2011, bringing in 62,000 Arab tourists, compared to the 50,000 that had visited the year prior.
According to figures from Istanbul's Culture and Tourism Department, after last year's increase by 20 percent in numbers of tourists, the same rate of increase is expected for this year. When looking at figures for the first six months of this year, there is a striking increase in the number of Arab tourists that visit Istanbul. There appears to have been a whopping 71.2 percent increase in the number of tourists from Arab nations that visit Istanbul. In the first six months of last year, a total 346,598 visitors came from Arab nations. During the first six months of this year that figure appears to have risen to 593,423 Arab tourists, out of a total 4,231,419 tourists that visited Istanbul during that time.
In 2009, 9.3 percent of the tourists that visited Istanbul were from Arab nations. In 2010, this figure went up to ten percent, in 2011 to 11.3 percent and in the first six months of 2012 up to 14 percent. The distribution of nationalities of tourists that visited Istanbul this year thus far are as follows: Germans came in first with 11.3 percent, Russians followed with 6.2 percent, Americans were third at 5.2 percent followed by French, British and Iranian tourists which made up 4.5 percent each, while Italians came in at 4.2 percent followed by the Dutch with 2.9 percent, tourists from Libya and Ukraine made up 2.2 percent and Japanese by 2.1 percent, Spanish, Iraqi and Azeri tourists made up two percent each while Saudi Arabians brought up the rear with 1.8 percent.
When looking at figures from the first six months of this year in comparison to the year prior, it is seen that the only two countries whose number of tourists had decreased was Turkmenistan and Israel, whereas tourist figures from Iran, Holland, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Switzerland all showed a rise.
There was also an increase in the number of tourists from Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In the first six months of 2011, 53,246 Iraqi tourists visited Istanbul. In the first half of 2012 that figure went up to 84,414. During the same time period in 2011, 12,333 tourists came from Libya. In 2012, the number of tourists from Libya jumped to 94,269. The number of Egyptian tourists also rose from 27,624 to 45,773. The number of tourists from Tunisian went from 23,842 to 38,588.
-''Shopping Fest contributed by one percentile''-
Ahmet Emre Bilgili, the director of the Istanbul Culture and Tourism Department recently announced that there was a significant increase in the number of tourists from Arab nations over the past six months.
Stating that tourist numbers from Saudi Arabia and Iraq have made the top ten nations of visitors to Turkey, Bilgili also points out that there wasn't an extraordinary drop in numbers of tourists from Syria.
Bilgili says, ''Tourists from Arab nations like to travel with their families, which is exactly what we want. They come in crowds, they spend a lot of money and they stay a long time."
Bilgili also explained that last year's Shopping Fest contributed to tourism figures by one percent.
Reminding that over the years in general, there has been a drop in tourist numbers from the Arabian world, Bilgili states, "For the first time last year there was an increase in tourists during the month of Ramadan. We believe that the 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency contributed to this factor. We feel that this year's 'Ramadan in Istanbul' will bring about the same results. That is because Turkish Airlines has begun advertising and municipalities are hosting events. We are certainly expecting an increase in the number of visitors from Arab countries this year."
The following are the number of visitors from Arab nations over the past three years (January to June).
Jan.- June 2010, 2011, 2012/ rate of variation between 2011-2012
IRAQ – 36,414, 53,246, 84,414 / 58.5
ALGERIA – 26,820, 33,286, 44,963 / 35.1
EGYPT – 22,577, 27,624, 45,773 / 65.7
MOROCCO – 23,147, 28,683, 33,107 / 15.4
LIBYA – 23,207, 12,333, 94,269 / 664.4
TUNISIA – 23,140, 23,842, 38,588 / 61.8
JORDAN – 20,384, 25,331, 31,717 / 25.2
SYRIA – 21,038, 20,065, 23,767 / 18.5
LEBANON – 25,262, 39,310, 45,739 / 16.4
SAUDI ARABIA – 17,164, 38,275, 78,206 /104.3
KUWAIT – 8,980, 16,618, 28,149 / 69,4
U.A.E – 8,362, 12,318, 18,995 / 54,2
SUDAN – 3,278, 3,297, 4,008 / 21.6
YEMEN – 2,218, 3,418, 5,231 / 53
OMAN – 1,669, 2,550, 3,906 / 53.2
BAHREIN – 2,173, 2,351, 4,978 / 111.7
QATAR – 1,497, 2,484, 5,185 / 108.7
PALESTINE – 1,270, 1,567, 2,428 / 54.9
TOTAL: 268,600, 346,598, 593,423 / 71.2