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Turkey seeks to strengthen tourism despite challenges

ANKARA, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's tourism industry is trying to maintain growth despite challenges such as violence gripping parts of the region and a major drop in Russian tourist arrivals.

Turkey managed to achieve a 1.3 percent year-on-year rise in its tourism revenue, to 4.87 billion U.S. dollars, in the first quarter of the year. Foreign tourist arrivals, at 1.9 million, surged 2.37 percent, according to government statistics.

In 2014, Turkey received 34.3 million inbound travellers, bringing in 41.4 billion dollars in revenue to the national economy.

Some 8 million Turks visited a foreign country last year, almost a 7 percent increase from 2013.

Domestic tourism has also been picking up, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute. In 2014, Turks made more than 70 million trips inside the country.

Due to negative developments, the industry lowered its growth forecast from an original 4-5 percent, to 1.5-2 percent, said Basaran Ulusoy, chairman of the Turkish Association of Travel Agents.

Another blow to the Turkish tourism industry is an expected major drop throughout the year in visitors from Russia, the top source of inbound tourist arrivals in Turkey, due to an economic downturn there blamed on lower oil prices and other factors.

Aziz Gunyeli, owner of Unser Tourism Agency, said the number of Russian visitors to Turkey dropped by 40 percent during the first four months of the year.

Tourism and related sectors in places frequented by Russian tourists in the past suffered, such as the resort city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coastline were hit harder than others because the decline has impact on adjacent industries as well.

Ulusoy, of the Association of Travel Agents, remains optimistic.

"Despite all of the negative developments in Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Iraq as well as economic contractions in Europe, Turkey will still surpass the 42 million tourist mark this year," he said.

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