Turkey’s Q4 revenues in tourism fall 13 pct

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s key tourism industry, hit by regional instability, which discouraged foreign visitors, suffered a 12.9 percent drop in revenues at the end of last year, data showed this week. Revenues were down to $3.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006 from $3.5 billion a year earlier, the Turkish Statistics Institute said. The fall in fourth-quarter revenues in a sector that is vital for financing Turkey’s large current account deficit helped push full-year income down 7 percent to $16.85 billion from $18.15 billion in 2005. Among the 12.55 million foreign tourists who visited Turkey last year, per capita spending amounted to $728, compared with $752 a year earlier. The number of foreign tourists during the year fell 6.2 percent from a year earlier, the institute said last week. The summer season was hit by bomb attacks carried out by a Kurdish separatist group that killed three people and wounded several European tourists. The group has threatened to turn Turkey into «hell.» Earlier in 2006, Turkey also suffered an outbreak of bird flu, and fears stemming from violent riots across the Middle East region over cartoons in a Danish magazine lampooning the Prophet Muhammad kept visitors away. Protests in Turkey were peaceful. Ankara had set a tourism revenue target of $20 billion last year as it looked to offset a current account deficit which amounted to $29.915 billion in the period from January to November 2006. 2007 expectations Analysts said the outlook for Turkey’s tourism industry remained uncertain in 2007 and would hinge on domestic politics and efforts to improve tourism infrastructure. Turkey faces presidential elections in May and general elections in November. «Quality dropped and customers began to be dissatisfied last year… However, if there are no extraordinary situations this year… it could be a better year,» the head of the Tourism Investors’ Association, Oktay Varlier, told Reuters. Turkey begins 2007 on rather uncertain footing after the murder of prominent Turkish Armenian editor Hrant Dink in Istanbul in a shooting widely reported abroad and blamed on ultra-nationalist fanaticism. «The picture that emerges from 2007 so far cannot be regarded as positive… There are two elections this year and the government could leave the sector out in the cold,» said Fehmi Kofteoglu, editor of a tourism newspaper.