ISTANBUL 

Turkey saw 4.5 million foreign visitors in the first half of 2020, the peak period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s Culture and Tourism Ministry said on Friday.

The figures were down by 75% year-on-year in the January-June period, from 18.07 million, the official data showed.

After appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus outbreak spread all around the world, causing millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Efforts to stem the virus’ spread – focusing on people staying at home and avoiding most human contact – have hit economies hard, especially the tourism and travel sectors.

After February, Turkey postponed the tourism season to June and cancelled a number of events such as fairs and expos.

With a normalization process starting in June, tourist facilities in Turkey reopened with rigorous measures to ensure safety and avoid the virus.

This January to June, Istanbul continued to be Turkey’s top tourist draw, attracting nearly 53.7% of foreign visitors – around 2.4 million.

Edirne, in northwestern Turkey, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, saw the second-highest number of foreigners, with 634,721.

The Mediterranean resort city of Antalya followed with 9.8% or over 444,227 foreign visitors.

Bulgarians accounted for over 9.35% or nearly 421,416 of the visitors, followed by Germans with 9.33%, Georgians with 7.5%, Russians with 7.1%, and Iranians with 5%.

In June, the country welcomed 214,768 foreign visitors, down from 5.3 million in June 2019, but up from 29,829 in the previous month.

Last year, more than 45 million foreigners entered Turkey, up from nearly 39.5 million in 2018.

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