Tourists take pictures of the Hagia Sophia Mosque while standing next to a police fence in Istanbul, on Jun 14, 2022.
ANKARA — "We expect the return of the Chinese visitors to be in a gradual manner, especially with a dynamic after the first half of this year, thus we can reach pre-pandemic levels," said Irfan Karsli, head of the Istanbul-based Ligarba Travel Agency.
As China is expected to orderly resume outbound tourism amidst the optimization of COVID-19 response, Turkish tourism industry players are eager to welcome back Chinese travelers.
Türkiye has to make sure to offer suitable and high-quality services to Chinese visitors, with tourist guides who speak fluently their language, and offer an honest and ethical approach to them
Chinese groups will start to come to Türkiye in April, Karsli said, calling on Turkish Airlines to increase the current frequency of 28 flights per week from Chinese cities.
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He said that China's latest optimization of COVID-19 response is expected to eventually bring a high number of tourists to Türkiye, which will help boost the country's economy.
"Türkiye has to make sure to offer suitable and high-quality services to Chinese visitors, with tourist guides who speak fluently their language, and offer an honest and ethical approach to them," the professional added.
In 2019, Türkiye received over 420,000 Chinese tourists, and hopes are high among tourism professionals for a repetition of the number as soon as possible.
Türkiye's Cappadocia region with its valleys featuring natural rock formations, fairy chimneys and hot-air balloon tours used to be a hotspot for Chinese tourists before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local sector representatives are expecting Chinese visitors' return in 2023, especially on the occasion of the Lunar New Year in January.
"Cappadocia is a very well-known destination for Chinese tourists, it's the biggest destination after Istanbul, Türkiye's cultural hub," Halis Aydogan, a balloon pilot and an official of Pasha Balloon Tours, told Xinhua.
Mehmet Dinler, chairman of the board of Royal Balloon, a hot-air balloon rides company, told Xinhua that they have started developing new rides for Chinese tourists.
"We are trying to offer a business class service, which is more comfortable with smaller baskets that can hold 16 to 20 people," he said.
In 2019, nearly half of balloon trip takers were from China, Aydogan said, adding that tourism income was a main source of local income.
Esra Yalaz, a tour operator for cultural tours based in the capital city Ankara, said that Chinese travelers are especially interested in cultural tourism.
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"On the Internet, we have already received some requests and questions from potential travelers from China aspiring to visit Istanbul for example, but also other parts of Türkiye," she said.
Turkish officials have said that Türkiye is ready to welcome Chinese travelers with open arms.
It's hopeful that the tourist figure this year can reach and exceed the 2019 level, said Ozgul Ozkan Yavuz, deputy minister of Türkiye's Culture and Tourism Ministry.
According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Türkiye hosted 42.16 million foreign tourists in the first 11 months of 2022. The country aims to attract 60 million foreign visitors in 2023 and expects the tourism sector to bring in $56 billion in revenue.