By Joe Parkinson
Don’t talk to Togra Saydan about the global downturn. The Istanbul-based tour guide is working 18-hour days and has had to cancel his vacation.
Unrest in the region, a weak Turkish currency and Ankara’s closer ties with neighbors are driving up tourism in Turkey. Hotels in Istanbul are clocking the highest occupancy rates in Europe, while many of the city’s conference halls are booked well into next year, industry groups and analysts said. Turkey’s coastal resorts say they are turning away customers.
“Istanbul is having a renaissance; our economy is strong and political problems on our doorstep are all bringing tourists here,” Mr. Saydan said. “These are the kinds of problems I always wanted to have.”
The latest data on Turkey’s $25 billion tourism industry show the number of tourists—local and foreign—increased by almost 11% in the first seven months of this year compared with the same period in 2010, according to the Ministry of Tourism. And 2010 was a bumper year.
The visitors include record numbers arriving from Europe and the Mideast. The crowds are bringing with them a welcome injection of foreign currency. Turkey’s economy is cooling from heady growth earlier this year and needs to finance a huge trade imbalance and a current-account deficit forecast to hit as much as 10% of gross domestic product by year’s end.
Read more at Wall Street Journal.. (Subscription required)