Turkey visitor numbers slump over 30% in April over security fears

People visit the shops of gold dealers as local and foreign tourists stroll through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 22, 2016.
People visit the shops of gold dealers as local and foreign tourists stroll through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 22, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - The number of foreigners visiting Turkey crashed by almost 30 per cent in April as tourists stayed away due to security fears following a wave of attacks and tensions with Russia.

Some 1.75 million foreigners came to Turkey in April, down 28.07 per cent on April 2015, the tourism ministry said in its latest release.

Arrivals from Russia were down 79.3 per cent, with tourism from what was once a key consumer of tours to Turkey almost wiped out by the row over Ankara's shooting down of a Russian plane in November last year.

But arrivals from other nations were affected by the security situation in Turkey, which has seen several deadly attacks blamed on jihadists and Kurdish militants this year alone.

Visitors from Germany, whose nationals account for the most visits to Turkey, were down over 35 per cent while from Britain they were down over 24 per cent.

Foreign tourism had been declining all year but the fall in April was by far the steepest yet and will be hugely alarming to the Turkish authorities in a country where the industry brought in US$31.5 billion (S$43.3 billion) in revenues in 2015.

The government has already announced a multi-million-dollar aid package for the struggling tourism industry to help firms and restructure debt.