Increasing tourist number

Muğla’s governor announced recently that the number of foreign tourists who visited the Agean coastal province between January 1 and June 30 reached 950,000 this year.

This figure shows a 16 percent increase compared to the same term last year. The rise in the number of tourists in the first half of the 2007 was seven percent when compared to the first half of 2006, said Dr. Ahmet Altıparmak.

The figures include visitors coming to Muğla by both air and sea. This year, 472,000 tourists landed at Dalaman Airport, while 331,000 landed at the Milas Airport in Bodrum. On the other hand, 145,000 visitors came to Muğla by cruise ships or yachts.

The statistics showed that British tourists were, as in previous years, the leading market for Muğla, numbering 427,000 vacationers. The numbers of tourists from other nationalities fell far behind that of British visitors: 81,000 Dutch, 70,000 Germans and 54,000 Russians chose the Muğla region for their holidays in the first half of 2008.

The statistics show there has been an increase in the number of foreign tourists to Muğla, mainly in Marmaris, Bodrum and Fethiye. Officials are glad to see the increasing tourist numbers, but questions remain whether the sector is prepared.

Since the middle of May, most of the five-star hotels and clubs around Marmaris are “short,” in hotel language, meaning that they are overbooked. Though this seems an optimistic reflection of the ongoing situation, the reality, unfortunately, is more complex than the statistics.

As the hotel’s capacity and quality go down, business is likely to suffer. Many small hotels and apart-hotels in Marmaris have been running on bank credit for the last two years. Though their rooms may be full in the high season of July and August, being fully booked does not mean profits are high. Generally, contracts were signed with tour operators long before, to ensure cash flow during the winter season. In those contracts, the average room price for a small hotel that has 50-60 beds is between three and five Euros for the high season, including breakfast. It would not be surprising to see most of the hotels not having anything to survive on at the end of this tourist season.

The same problem may occur even for the four- or five-star hotels, as they also have to accept the tour operators’ conditions. For instance, one of the luxury hotels that was renovated recently had to offer rooms for $15 a day per person. Moreover, this is an all-inclusive price, which means free food and drink service all day long! It is difficult, then, to understand how these prices could pay off and how the hotels could develop improve in quality. To succeed in running their business under these circumstances, the hotel managers must have a high degree in economics!

Hotel prices are low, but Turkey is still not a cheap destination, according to research done on the country’s main tourist destinations. A 2006 survey by the British Total Media Group explained how, showing that a family of five spends 2,030 pounds for a one-week holiday in Turkey. Under the same conditions, a holiday costs 1,997 pounds in Egypt, 1,997 pounds in Cyprus, 1,958 pounds in Morocco or Tunisia, 1,909 pounds in Portugal or Madeira, 1,881 pounds in Italy, 1,772 pounds in Greece, 1,658 pounds in Spain, 1,653 pounds in France, 1,584 pounds in Malta and 1,263 pounds in Germany. The cost of travel makes the average holiday cost higher for Turkey because the taxes are higher in Turkish airports. Holidays in Turkey are more expensive compared to its rival countries in general, but, on the other hand, hotel prices are low.

The number of tourists in Turkey is growing, according to official statistics. However, many say hotel business are losing their charm as the room prices are always going down.

Though this article has focused mainly on the hotel industry, low income is a problem for many branches of tourism, each of which could be the subject of a different article. The common point in all of them is oversupply, inflation of hotels, inflation of restaurants, inflation of leather shops, etc. The problem is likely to remain for some time because politicians seem unable to understand that more investment does not always mean more income. Based on this situation, many say it is time to put some strict regulations on tourism investments and apply regulations for high quality service. Otherwise, many investors who start in the tourism business with huge hopes will lose even what they have in their pocket.

Marmaris is full of tourists today and they are happy to be in such a heavenly city. But it is not necessarily possible to say the same thing of the sector serving them.

Seda Kirt

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