Istanbul, Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Europe’s No. 1 tourist destination this summer

Istanbul is the only destination in Europe that is recovering from the pandemic and managed to receive more tourists than in 2019.

Istanbul has been the No. 1 tourist destination in Europe this summer, managing to increase tourist arrivals on flights by 2% compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to data published by the travel statistical analysis company ForwardKeys.

The report, which analyses which have been the most successful tourist destinations this summer in Europe, places Istanbul as the only major European tourist destination that registered an increase in flight arrivals compared to pre-COVID pandemic levels, that plunged the tourism sector around the world.

After the metropolis of the Bosphorus, the 2nd place was occupied by Athens (registering a drop of 7% compared to the number of flights before the pandemic), followed by Reykjavik and Porto, both with a drop of 8%; 5th place in the ranking is occupied by the Spanish city of Malaga, where the arrival of tourist flights “only” fell by 13%.

Turkey and Greece, the two main tourist destinations

Turkey and Greece have been, in fact, the two main countries that have become major destinations for tourism this summer, since in general terms both have managed not only to recover but even exceed the number of arrivals of flights with tourists that they registered in the months of July and August before the pandemic (that is, in 2019). Turkey recorded a 9% increase in flights, while Greece ranks 2nd with a 2% increase.

A small tourist destination in Europe, which represents less than 1% of the European tourism market in terms of flight arrivals, but which has also managed to register a notable recovery this summer, has been Albania, where tourist flight arrivals grew by no less than 28%.

Arrival of tourists to Spain plummets

The rest of the countries of the old continent, on the contrary, registered a decrease compared to the summer of 2019, with the least negative data being those registered by Slovenia (-7%), Iceland (-8%) and Portugal (-10%). Much worse are the data registered by countries such as Spain (-23%), France (-25%), Italy (-32%), the United Kingdom (-33%) or Germany (-39%), which are still very far from recovering the tourism figures prior to the pandemic.

Among the main factors that have made Turkey and Istanbul become the No. 1 tourist destination in Europe this summer, are the devaluation of the lira (which lowers costs for foreign tourism) as well as the decision of the Eurasian country to keep their airports open to the arrival of direct flights with tourists from Russia, while most European countries have banned them. In fact, in 2019 Russians accounted for 4% of all tourist arrivals in Europe, a figure that has plummeted this year.