Turkey sees tourism income decline 8.9 pct

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s tourism revenues fell 8.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter as concerns over regional instability discouraged foreign visitors during the peak holiday season. Data on Friday showed revenues fell to $8.04 billion in the tourism sector, which is crucial for narrowing the current account deficit, long the weak spot of the fast-growing economy. A series of bombings in Mediterranean resorts in August killed three people and injured dozens, while Kurdish separatists who claimed responsibility for the blasts promised to turn Turkey into «hell» to target tourism revenues. Turkey was also affected earlier in the season by a crisis over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in Denmark, which sparked riots across the Middle East, and by an outbreak of bird flu. «There were a lot of reasons why Turkish tourism suffered – the avian flu, the tensions in the Middle East, and the fierce competition in the tourism sector on a global scale,» said Ozgur Altug, chief economist at Raymond James Securities. Ankara set a tourism revenue target of $20 billion this year, to offset the current account deficit which grew 44.6 percent to $22.42 billion in the first eight months of this year. The weak tourism figures will mean upward revisions to the deficit estimates. «For Turkey there will be an upward revision for the current account deficit of $200 million in July and $250 million in August… although they (the lower figures) were expected, current account deficit forecasts should be revised upwards,» said Altug, predicting another $200 million upward revision to the deficit in September.