Istanbul, which has been chosen as the European cultural capital in 2010, is going through the worst tourism season of the last 17 years these days. The metropolis experienced a 26 percent loss in its tourist population last year and started to signal its collapse with further increase in this percentage in 2017.
After tradesmen in Taksim and Istiklal Street going out of business that became an issue in the past few months and the restoration work that started on the street continuing to crush the region, tradesmen of the Grand Bazaar also started to shut down their businesses. And nowadays, Sultanahmet, the historical region that attracts the most tourists in Istanbul, also started to face the same reality.
50-60% of the shops were evacuated in Akbıyık Street, parallel to Sultanahmet Square and one of the most frequently visited areas by tourists for entertainment. The rest of the shops experience a great trouble as well because they are not able to pay their rents. Many important restaurants that are frequented by tourists have closed in Alemdar Street, which connects Sultanahmet to Gülhane Park. The most interested tourists in the streets of Sultanahmet are the ones from the Euro area but it is very difficult to see even those tourist groups in these streets.
This year Ramadan is pretty quiet in Sultanahmet, which is the first stopping point for cultural festivals every year during Ramadan, where reservations are sold out immediately every year. In addition to the declining number of tourists, the relocation of the municipality-organized cultural entertainment events to the new Maltepe and Yenikapi event areas in recent years has significantly affected this quietness.
The risks caused by the Syrian civil war in the region and increasing security concerns following the terrorist attacks happened in the last few years are among the biggest reasons for the crisis in the region.
On top of this critical situation, restoration of Istiklal Caddesi, relocation of Sultanahmet events, intensive settlement of refugees in these regions and closing shops afterwards, altogether reduced the interests of foreign tourists as well as domestic tourists in the region.
Unless strategic plans are made by creating a crisis management desk in order to restore the city's tourism liveliness, Istanbul tourism may be harmed permanently in the future.