Istanbul attack to worsen Turkish tourism slump

Turkey's tourism sector will suffer further following this week's tragic terror attack on Istanbul's main international airport, analysts told CNBC.

It's the eighth deadly attack to be launched on Turkish soil since last October, killing a total of at least 250 people over the last 9 months, according to newswire AFP.

Nadejda Popova, Travel Project Manager at Euromonitor International told CNBC via email that 2016 numbers will be "heavily impacted," by the string of attacks and that "performance will be further aggravated by the recent bombings at Ataturk Airport."

Damage from inside the airport where the bomb went off at the arrivals area of the airport.
Monique Jaques | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Damage from inside the airport where the bomb went off at the arrivals area of the airport.

Foreign inbound tourism to Turkey dropped by 34.67 percent year-on-year in May, according to data from Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, from 3.8 million to 2.5 million.

Projections by Euromonitor International provided to CNBC show further declines are expected, with inbound tourism expected to total 32,940,600 this year, down from 34,674,300 in 2015 and 35,024,600 a year earlier.

Tourism accounted for 5 percent of Turkish gross domestic product in 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, but with depressed demand, is expected to only rise by 0.2 percent in 2016.

"As seen from examples in the Middle East such as Tunisia, one isolated attack cannot cripple the entire industry, but repetitive attacks will definitely prevent the development of the tourism industry," Popova explained.

"Big travel players such as TUI and Thomas Cook are already recording a significant decline in bookings to Turkey of over 35 percent which of course showcases that demand is very low and travellers are shifting their holiday plans to other destinations in Europe," she added.

A late deal being run by Thomas Cook currently offers seven nights at a Turkish resort for about £539 per person, flying from Birmingham, U.K.

Thomas Cook did not disclose any changes to pricing, but told CNBC via email that its holiday and flight programs to Turkish resorts were operating as normal but with increased security measures at airports.

TUI Group spokesperson Kuzey Esener confirmed to CNBC that prices for trips to Turkey are significantly lower than they were last year. While TUI doesn't disclose percentage changes, Esener did say they were in the double-digit region.

Still, Turkish holiday packages haven't been marketed any differently despite the rising risk of terror attacks, he said.

"Hoteliers are making strong offers, value for money is currently excellent in Turkey. However, there are no specific marketing activities compared to previous year," Esener told CNBC.

Will Russians return to Turkey?

The country has not only had to grapple with terror attacks, but geopolitical tensions that sparked a sharp drop in the usually numerous Russian visitors.

The Kremlin ordered a ban on travel packages and flights to the country after the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border in November.

Russian tourism to Turkey dropped 91.82 percent year-on-year in May, according to data from Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, accounting for only 1.65 percent of total tourism compared to over 13 percent a year earlier.

Russians have accounted for one of the largest proportions of tourists to Turkey, second only to Germans, according to Euromonitor data dating back to 2010.

However, a recent thawing of relations with the Kremlin could provide some hope for the country's lucrative tourism sector, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a written apology, followed by a phone call on Wednesday.

"This is definitely a move in the right direction, however we must not forget that fear factor among travellers is an important aspect when the travel industry is concerned," Popova said.

"Unless the (Turkish) government takes all the necessary actions to strengthen security in the country, tourism flows from these markets will not be sufficient to revive the sector," Popova said.