Ski slopes, hot springs: Tourists flock to Turkey for winter getaways

Turkey’s ski resorts, which stand out for their snow quality and facilities, have been increasingly preferred by foreign vacationers as well as citizens in recent years. This season is no different, as the interest has fueled a growing number of reservations, according to tourism representatives Sunday.

Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Chairperson Firuz Bağlıkaya told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Turkey is quickly growing in popularity as a winter destination for vacationers from abroad.

Bağlıkaya said that in addition to the snow and high-quality resorts, Turkey is also a top destination in areas such as thermal and sports tourism.

Noting that ski centers such as Uludağ in northwestern Bursa province, Erciyes in central Turkey’s Kayseri, Sarıkamış in eastern Kars province, Kartepe in northwestern Kocaeli and Davraz in the western Isparta province stand out in terms of ski tourism, Bağlıkaya said there are charter flights transporting visitors from Ukraine, Russia and Poland every week.

Erciyes, for example, saw 10 charter flights bringing in foreign tourists on New Year’s Eve alone, he said.

“Tourists are coming as part of seven to 10-day packages, which include skiing as well as cultural tours.”

“Thanks to the charter flights, some 15% of the accommodation in the Erciyes ski resort area is now made up of foreign visitors,” he said.

Apart from countries like Russia and Ukraine, which send the most of the tourists, vacationers from countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, as well as regions such as the Middle East, Latin America and the Far East prefer Turkey, he said.

Bağlıkaya added that the Erciyes ski resort, which is also close to Turkey’s famed Cappadocia region, alone aims to host around 25,000-30,000 foreign tourists in the winter of 2022.

Uludağ is another prominent destination in ski tourism, the tourism official stated, which hosts foreign visitors from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and countries in the Middle East.

Approximately 10% of the visitors staying in Bursa are foreigners, he said.

Stressing that foreigners’ interest in Uludağ is particularly high this year, Bağlıkaya said, “An average of two planes come to the region every week from the Polish and Russian markets. Apart from this, Bursa also receives tourists from Germany and Belgium. The Gulf countries’ interest in the region continues.”

Bağlıkaya stated that Erzurum’s Palandöken ski resort hosts foreign visitors, mainly from Ukraine and Iran, and that about 20% of the occupancy of the hotels in the region is made up of foreigners.

Sarıkamış ski resort in eastern Anatolia is another that hosts Ukrainian and Russian skiers, Bağlıkaya said. “The cities of Kars and Van in the eastern Anatolia region, which receive many daily visitors from Iran, stand out in terms of both ski tourism and shopping tourism. There is also Mount Ararat. Therefore, it is a frequent destination for foreign mountaineers in the summer months,” he said.

A father and child sled down a hill at Palandöken, Erzurum, eastern Turkey, Jan. 22, 2022. (AA Photo)
A father and child sled down a hill at Palandöken, Erzurum, eastern Turkey, Jan. 22, 2022. (AA Photo)

Thermal tourism

Further commenting that thermal tourism has important potential in Turkey within the scope of winter tourism, Bağlıkaya said that cities such as Afyonkarahisar in the central west, as well as Yalova and Bursa in the northwestern parts of the country, stand out in this area, noting that qualified thermal facilities in these cities welcome tourists from abroad every year.

In addition to its skiing potential, Bursa also provides services to foreigners in health tourism thanks to its thermal facilities, Bağlıkaya said. He went on to say that the city welcomes tourists mainly from Azerbaijan, Germany, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Russia and the Netherlands.

Antalya is another region that benefits from sports tourism during the winter months, Bağlıkaya said. “Many groups from different sports branches, especially football clubs and golf, prefer Antalya for camping,” he elaborated. “While sports tourism has a great impact on the extension of the season, it makes a significant contribution to tourism professionals in the region during the winter months. It also helps to retain qualified personnel.”

An aerial view of Kartepe, Kocaeli, northwestern Turkey, Jan. 22, 2022. (IHA Photo)
An aerial view of Kartepe, Kocaeli, northwestern Turkey, Jan. 22, 2022. (IHA Photo)

Early bookings for summer

Speaking about the summer season, Bağlıkaya stated that the early reservation campaign for the domestic tourism market for 2022, which was launched with the slogan “It’s Not Early, It’s Time” at the TÜRSAB 2021 Tourism Congress held in Antalya last November, continues at full speed. According to the information they received from travel agencies, citizens’ interest in the campaign is high, he said.

“Current sales are two to five times higher than 2021, although they differ according to agencies. Looking at the prices, our agencies have received reservations 75%-80% higher than last year’s average. We expect the early booking figures for 2019 to be exceeded soon.”

Bağlıkaya said that the Mediterranean and Aegean regions stand out the most in early reservation requests in the domestic market for the summer of 2022.

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