UK/INTERNATIONAL. UK tourists are returning to the Middle East and North African holiday destinations they had been shunning because of the risk of terrorism or unrest, according to a new report.

Bookings for Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt are growing the fastest, according to the latest findings from analysts ForwardKeys and GfK. The research is based on an analysis of booking transactions by travel agents.

Turkey, with the biggest market share of the three, is showing a +66.4% growth in UK leisure bookings on last year; Egypt has risen by +50.9%; and Tunisia – with a +0.7% share – is up a huge +901%.

Source (all charts): ForwardKeys and GfK.
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Holiday bookings to more traditional safe destinations, Spain and Portugal, have fallen back -2.5% and -0.2% respectively, ForwardKeys said. They had benefited from increased visitor numbers in recent years as a result of the threats to other destinations.

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In terms of scheduled capacity, Egypt and Tunisia both have a long way to go to reach their 2015 levels. In the third quarter of this year, Egypt has 46% of seats available three years ago, and Tunisia, 38%. But, seats on direct flights from the UK to Turkey are back to 94% of what they were in 2015.

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Click on image to enlarge.

The ForwardKeys and GfK research shows that overall UK leisure travel is ahead +4.9% this summer.

ForwardKeys Chief Executive and co-founder Olivier Jager said: “These findings illustrate the ultimate resilience of travel and tourism. Tourists are prepared to reassess their impressions of a destination if it manages to remain safe for an extended period of time. It’s encouraging that the countries previously affected by unrest are seeing their tourist marketing efforts pay off in hard figures.”

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GfK Market Research Senior Client Insight Director David Hope commented: “The growth is driven by the dynamism of short and mid haul summer destinations, up by +7.7%. These destinations represent around 60% of British international travel in the summer period.

“British tourists are flocking back to Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, after the security incidents in 2015 and 2016. Spain and Portugal will see slightly fewer tourists, while other European destinations, including Greece, Croatia and Bulgaria, maintain an optimistic outlook.

“The full recovery of North African destinations will require some time. This summer, the scheduled air capacity will be only half of what it was in 2015 for Tunisia and Egypt.”