Istanbul breaks 10-year record for tourist arrivals in July, welcoming 1.87 million visitors

Istanbul has emerged as a destination of choice for visitors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, breaking a 10-year record in tourist arrivals for the month of July.

According to data released by the Istanbul Directorate of Culture and Tourism, the popular Türkiye destination experienced a 6% year-on-year increase in July, welcoming 1.87 million foreign tourists – the highest recorded in a decade for the city.

While Russia and Germany emerged as the top two markets for inbound tourism to Istanbul in July, with 185,636 and 135,568 tourist arrivals, respectively, the GCC maintained its hold in the top 10 with Saudi Arabia in the third spot and Kuwait in the ninth.

With four carriers offering direct connections between the kingdom and Türkiye, including Saudia, Flynas, Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines, Istanbul saw 135,096 visitors from Saudi Arabia alone in July. Additionally, 45,854 tourists travelled from Kuwait to the Turkish city in the same month.

Istanbul welcomed 9.77 million foreign tourists in the first seven months of 2023, reporting a 15% over last year’s figures of 8.5 million for the same period. The city also played host to nearly a third of the total 26,766,240 tourists who visited Türkiye in the first seven months of the year.

Lure of GCC visitors

Türkiye has been actively luring tourists from GCC post pandemic through increased flight connections and visa waiver programmes. Last month, the Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Oman spoke to the country’s state news agency about removing the mandate of entry visas. The move came after 130,000 visitors from Oman entered Türkiye for tourism in 2022. The Ambassador indicated that a request to cancel entry visas for both countries has been submitted and is expected to be approved before the end of this year.

Additionally, visitor arrivals from Kuwait have also been growing over the years, bolstered by growing investment opportunities. According to figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute last year, investors from the Gulf nation ranked second, after Iraq, in purchasing real estate properties in Türkiye, with a total of 8,442 properties acquired across seven years.

Other countries that appeared in the Turkish institute’s list of top real estate buyers included Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

(Reporting by Bindu Rai, editing by Seban Scaria)