(Adds background, analyst comment)
By Ece Toksabay
ANKARA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey rose almost by half in July, official data showed on Friday, as the number of Russian tourists surged due to an improvement in relations between Ankara and Moscow.
Foreign arrivals rose 46.4 percent in July to 5.08 million, marking the sharpest rise in 13 years, albeit off of last year’s low base, the data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed. The rise follows a turnaround in tourism numbers in April, when the number of foreign visitors rose for the first time in nearly two years.
The number of Russian visitors increased more than 16-fold in July and around 10-fold in the first seven months of the year. Tourism was one of the worst hit industries after the crisis that followed Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian in November 2015.
“Compared to 2016, geopolitical stress continued to be mild in July but tension with the European Union increased,” said Melis Pocar, vice president of research at Oyak Securities.
“However, capacity constraints in various European holiday destinations, high prices and a weak lira should have supported the figures,” she added.
Tourism, which adds about $30 billion to gross domestic product each year, was also hit by an attempted coup last July and a spate of bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants, which scared away tourists over the past year. (Editing by David Dolan)