Pop stars to the rescue of Turkey's battered tourism industry?

Wed Mar 16, 2016 2:54pm EDT
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By Tina Bellon

BERLIN (Reuters) - Turkish tourism officials hit by plummeting Russian bookings and grim urban bombings are hoping that Madonna, Justin Bieber or Jennifer Lopez can help revive business along their sunny Mediterranean coast.

Tourism revenue in Turkey fell 14.3 percent in the final quarter of last year and 2016 bookings point to an even more challenging year for the country's tourism industry, which accounts for about 4.5 percent of the $800 billion economy.

The "Turkish Riviera" around Antalya, the main vacation hub, is one of the worst hit areas. The local Chamber of Commerce (ATSO) appealed to Ankara's tourism ministry this month after the number of Russian visitors in January tumbled by 81 percent.

Following the downing of a Russian warplane on Nov. 24, Moscow approved sanctions against Turkey and ATSO calculated the crisis would cost Turkey up to $11 billion.

Antalya, the main city on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, will host the EXPO 2016 world horticultural fair in April. ATSO thinks some star-studded musical support could help attract visitors worried by the headlines from the volatile region.

"EXPO 2016 should be turned into a big tourism push, for instance by organizing big concerts by international celebrities such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez or Justin Bieber, to attract the interest of target markets," a tourism ministry report said.

It remains to be seen whether "Bieber fever" or "Madonna madness" can calm security fears that saw booking numbers dive after a suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul in January, the first of several bombings in Turkey this year.

The German travel group TUI has reported a 40 percent drop in summer bookings in Turkey. On Wednesday, German airport operator Fraport, which operates Antalya's airport, said it expected passenger numbers there to fall this year.   Continued...

A woman walks on the beach at sunset in the Mediterranean resort town of Belek in Antalya, Turkey, January 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Murad Sezer