ISTANBUL 

Turkey welcomed 4.24 million foreign visitors in the first quarter of 2020, the country’s Culture and Tourism Ministry said on Thursday.

The number of foreigners visiting the country dropped by 22.1% on a yearly basis in the quarter, the ministry data showed.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China last December, tourism and aviation sectors took a backseat due to restrictions on travel.

Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines also suspended all flights till May 28.

COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions across the world. Europe and the US are currently the worst-hit.

Turkey currently has 117,589 coronavirus cases, while the death toll in the country stands at 3,081.

On a global scale, the virus infected more than 3.2 million people and caused over 227,800 deaths, so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the first quarter, Istanbul remained Turkey’s top tourist spot, attracting nearly 55.5% of all visitors — around 2.35 million.

Edirne, in northwestern Turkey, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, saw the second-highest number of foreigners, with 540,261 in the January-March period.

The Mediterranean resort city of Antalya followed them with 10.18% or over 431,653 foreign visitors last month.

Some 2.98 million visitors came to Turkey via air ways, while 1.16 million chose motor ways, 87,712 sea ways and 3,503 railways.

Bulgarians accounted for over 9.3% or nearly 393,220 of the visitors, followed by Germans with 8.4% (356,261 visitors) and Georgians with some 7.74% (327,910).

In March, the number of foreign visitors dropped by 67.8% to stand at 718,097, down from 2.23 million in the same month last year.

In the first month of 2020, the tourist number hit the highest January figures with 1.8 million foreign visitors.

In 2019, more than 45 million foreigners entered the country, up from nearly 39.5 million in 2018.

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