Tourists return, says Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) – Tourists have begun to rebook canceled reservations to Turkey with hopes the US-led war in neighboring Iraq is moving closer to an end, the chief government spokesman said yesterday. Tourism is a key source of foreign exchange in crisis-hit Turkey, which aims to bring in $13 billion in tourism revenues this year, but fears of violence in Iraq spreading across the border had frightened away some travelers. «According to the latest information, there has been an important rejuvenation in tourism, which had slowed down for a time,» Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. «Reservations that had been canceled are being renewed extremely quickly,» he said, but did not offer any figures on the number of tourists now planning trips to Turkey. The tourism sector had previously reported a decline of 10 to 15 percent in holiday reservations for the peak season in the summer compared to last year. Last year more than 13 million tourists visited Turkey, an increase of 14 percent over 2001. Sener also said the government had no plans to revise its economic targets because of the impact of the war. Analysts have said Ankara may need to revise key macroeconomic targets for 2003, pointing to a likely drop in tourism and trade revenues brought on by the conflict. «Our macroeconomic targets are as they’ve been announced, and there is no need to make any other adjustments,» he said. The government targets 5 percent economic growth in 2003 under its $16 billion IMF pact and consumer price inflation of 20 percent compared to a rate of around 29 percent in March. Worries that the Iraq war would drive away tourists, as well as foreign investors and other trade revenues, have pummeled Turkey’s financial markets in recent weeks.