Amid escalating costs in the tourism sector, Turkish holidaymakers are reshaping their travel preferences, leading to a pronounced shift toward off-peak seasons and more affordable international destinations.

Travel agency Jolly has seen a 70% year-over-year increase in sales of holiday packages for September and October, which are approximately 40% cheaper than peak summer months, according to its chairperson, Mete Vardar.

This cost surge has not only influenced the timing of vacations but also directed Turkish tourists toward international destinations that appear to be cheaper than at home.

Despite efforts to boost domestic occupancy rates, Vardar highlighted that there has been a growing demand for overseas trips.

He emphasized the need for measures to counteract the impact of inflation on hotels, advocating for more reasonable pricing to sustain longer seasons and contribute significantly to the national economy.

Vardar proposed increasing the allocation for domestic tourists in hotels from the current 15% to 30%-35%, which he says could enable offering better rates and extending the tourism season.

Official data this Wednesday showed Türkiye’s annual inflation rate began what is expected to be a sustained fall in June, dipping more than expected to 71.6%. Monthly inflation also cooled markedly.

The producer price index was up 1.38% month-over-month for an annual rise of 50.09%.

Last year’s average nightly cost of TL 4,000 ($122) has reached TL 6,000-TL 6,500, according to Vardar. Despite the increase, he argued that current prices are still below the true cost.

“Looking at the cost increase, this should be above TL 8,000,” he told a press meeting on Thursday to address the latest outlook related to Jolly and the industry.

Vardar said the inflationary pressures that have been affecting hotel prices are prompting more people to consider holidays abroad. He said his agency has seen a 50% increase in foreign travel package requests compared to the previous year.

“Destinations like Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh are seeing high demand for beach vacations,” he explained. “In some cases, packages to Dubai and parts of Southeast Asia are more economical than similar offerings within Türkiye. Moreover, South American destinations such as Mexico, Cancun, and Cuba present budget-friendly options for sea vacations.”

Vardar also mentioned the increasing popularity of Balkan countries, particularly those with visa-free entry requirements.

A significant barrier for Turkish travelers has been the challenges associated with obtaining Schengen visas.

Vardar pointed out that one-third of reservations are canceled due to the inability to secure timely visa appointments or because visa processing extends beyond the planned holiday period.

Without these issues, Jolly could have seen a 70% increase in international travel requests, he said.

Adding to the complexities, rumors about the potential rise in the departure fee, currently TL 150, to about TL 1,500 have also stirred concern.

Vardar suggested that such an amount could equate to the cost of a one-night international travel package.

“We offer a one-night Thessaloniki tour including transportation, guide services and breakfast for 79 euros ($85.50). The proposed fee could be as much as the cost of the entire tour,” he said.

Looking ahead, Vardar expressed optimism about Jolly’s growth trajectory.

Despite the challenges, the company has seen a 30% increase in the number of travelers and a 120% surge in revenue compared to the previous year. Vardar said the company expects to end the year with over 100% revenue growth.

He attributed the disparity between the rise in the number of travelers and revenue to the higher costs being passed on to prices. Additionally, Jolly has expanded its portfolio to include more premium and upper-segment hotels, which has significantly contributed to revenue growth, he added.

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