Tourism in Turkey

Tourism in Turkey

Turkey recorded a total of 16 million tourists in 2020, ranking 15th in the world in absolute terms.

The fact that larger countries regularly perform better in a comparison of the absolute number of guests is obvious. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Turkey, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.19 tourists per resident, Turkey ranked 93rd in the world. In Western Asia, it ranked 11th.

In 2020, Turkey generated around 13.77 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 1.7 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 20 percent of all international tourism receipts in Western Asia.

Worldwide comparisons:
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Back to overview: Turkey

The most popular cities in Turkey for international travelers are Istanbul and Antalya. In 2021, Istanbul ranked 20th among the world's most popular cities. Antalya was in 52nd.

Tourism in TurkeyOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2020 spent about 819 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of Turkey spend only around 694 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

The most popular destinations within Turkey are mainly the major cities of Istanbul and Antalya, which are rich in history, as well as the coastal regions of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea. Most tourists come from Russia and Germany. Located on the border of Asia and Europe and with a varied history, Turkey offers a variety of focuses depending on the region. The history of the country in influenced by the Persians, Greeks and Romans of antiquity, the Ottoman Empire and trade between the continents. This resulted in an impressive culture with numerous influences. From Greek temples to Roman aqueducts to cathedrals, cave churches and amphitheaters, Turkey offers culture from as many eras as almost any other country.

With over 7000 km of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, there are countless opportunities for bathing holidays in a Mediterranean climate. Most popular are the Aegean Sea in the northwest and the Turkish Riviera in the south of the country. Due to the lack of industry near the coast, the water quality here has achieved top marks for decades, and impressive standing and underwater images regularly grace the catalogs of the travel industry.

With only a few exceptions, the number of travelers increases every year. In 2016, tourism plummeted noticeably due to the Syria crisis and the associated terror threat. Also in 2020/21, as in almost all countries, tourist numbers remained far below the usual levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The different understanding of the law in the mainly Western countries compared with Turkey often has a problematic effect. While public expression of opinion is accepted or customary in many countries, it is viewed far more restrictively in Turkey. In the past, the foreign offices of some countries issued travel warnings on several occasions.

Development of the tourism sector in Turkey from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in Turkey each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 18 countries in Western Asia.

Tourists per year in Turkey

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 4.96 billion USD, or about 2.9 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 7.73 million tourists at that time and roughly 642 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $41.42 billion billion, 5.4 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $800 on their vacation in Turkey.

In 2020, tourist receipts plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $41.42 billion billion (2019), only $13.77 billion billion remained. This is a 67 percent decrease in Turkey.

Tourism receipts in Turkey per year

All data for Turkey in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
202015.97 m13.77 bn $1.9 %862 $
201951.75 m41.42 bn $5.4 %800 $
201846.11 m36.79 bn $4.7 %798 $
201737.97 m31.99 bn $3.7 %843 $
201630.91 m26.51 bn $3.0 %858 $
201541.11 m35.65 bn $4.1 %867 $
201441.63 m40.03 bn $4.3 %962 $
201339.86 m37.98 bn $4.0 %953 $
201237.72 m31.57 bn $3.6 %837 $
201136.77 m30.30 bn $3.6 %824 $
201033.00 m26.32 bn $3.4 %798 $
200931.76 m26.33 bn $4.1 %829 $
200831.14 m26.45 bn $3.4 %849 $
200727.22 m21.66 bn $3.2 %796 $
200619.82 m19.14 bn $3.4 %966 $
200521.13 m20.76 bn $4.1 %983 $
200417.52 m15.89 bn $3.9 %907 $
200314.03 m13.20 bn $4.2 %941 $
200213.26 m11.90 bn $5.0 %898 $
200111.62 m10.07 bn $5.0 %866 $
200010.43 m7.64 bn $2.8 %732 $
19997.49 m5.20 bn $2.0 %695 $
19989.75 m7.18 bn $2.6 %736 $
19979.69 m7.00 bn $3.7 %723 $
19968.61 m5.65 bn $3.1 %656 $
19957.73 m4.96 bn $2.9 %642 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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