Some 1,052 cruise ships are expected to visit Türkiye’s ports this year, bringing around 1.5 million visitors as seaborne tourism activity that suffered from the pandemic starts to pick up.
The country’s ports welcomed 78 cruise ships with 45,400 passengers on board in 2021, but only five cruise ships with 1,800 travelers visited Türkiye in 2020 when the pandemic broke out, data from the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry showed.
Back in 2013, a record number of 2.2 million cruise passengers visited the country.
Cruise ship traffic, however, started to revive again this year as nations relaxed most of the COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
From Jan. 1 to May 19, 130 cruise ships with around 81,500 passengers on board docked at Türkiye’s ports, with the famous holiday resort town of Kuşadası taking the lead with 68 cruise ship visits. Istanbul, the country’s cultural and financial center, ranked second as it received 26 liners during the same period.
In 2022, 490 cruise ships are expected to visit Kuşadası, while the cruise ship visit forecasts for Istanbul, Bodrum and Çeşme are 200, 138 and 77, respectively.
Cruise ship tourism in Kuşadası began in the 1960s and became an important destination, said Aziz Güngör, Global Ports Holding East Med Ports regional director.
“Cruise tourism generates some $200 million in revenues a year at the Kuşadası Port. The spending of a transit cruise passenger is $115 on average in the world, but this figure is estimated to be around $200 for Kuşadası, which is also a ‘shopping paradise,’” he said.
Haluk Hızlan, general manager of Bodrum Cruise Port, also noted that each passenger spends around 150 euros. “This is a large number. If 200,000 passengers visit the port, this means 30 million euros in revenues for Bodrum.”
İzmir, on the Aegean coast, and the southern province of Antalya, another major holiday destination, will welcome 34 and 26 cruise ships this year, respectively.
Türkiye aims to host 1.5 million cruise passengers but this target may be exceeded and 2023 will be better for cruise tourism, said Aydın Erdemir, head of the Port Operators Association of Türkiye.
“Large cruise companies’ ships have started to visit Türkiye, which is an important country in the Mediterranean Sea in terms of cruise tourism,” he added.
Experts agree that Turkey has advantages over the other Mediterranean countries due to its geographical location, historical sites and cultural heritage.
The Mediterranean is second to South America as a cruise destination with some 20 percent of global cruise tourism activities taking place there.