Turkey’s cultural capital, Istanbul, has set a new tourism record by receiving 5.42 million tourists during the first five months of 2019.
The Istanbul Directorate of Culture and Tourism said the number of foreign tourists who visited Istanbul from January until May this year represents an increase of 11 per cent compared to the same period of 2018.
This is the highest number of tourists visiting Istanbul in five years.
German tourists topped the list of foreign tourists followed by Iranians, Russians and Iraqis.
The figures come at a time when Saudi Arabia has been discouraging its citizens from travelling to Turkey, warning them that there has been a rise in the number of cases of the theft of Saudi passports in Istanbul.
Over the past few years, relations between the two countries have been increasingly strained by diplomatic differences and by each other’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, and especially by Turkey’s support of Qatar following the ongoing blockade imposed on it by the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt in 2017.
Relations reached breaking point following the murder of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year. Following months of investigations into the murder and the revelations that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi under the direct command of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Turkey has repeatedly called on the international community to prioritise bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
Consequently, the kingdom has been pushing a campaign to encourage a boycott of Turkey through all means possible. The campaign garnered support amongst Saudi royals and figures, with Riyadh’s influential governor Faisal Bin Bandar refusing a cup of Turkish coffee, triggering a call for a boycott of Turkish products.