ISTANBUL, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey grew at its slowest pace for eight months in July, as the impact of anti-government protests and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan took their toll, data showed on Friday.
Foreign arrivals rose 0.48 percent year-on-year last month to 4.59 million people, according to the Tourism Ministry figures, the lowest rise since November. The number of visitors rose 4.93 percent the previous month.
Tourism revenues constitute one of the most important items that help finance Turkey’s current account deficit, running at over 7 percent of output and its main economic weakness.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators, some of them throwing stones, night after night in June after a peaceful protest against plans to redevelop an Istanbul square spiralled into an unprecedented show of defiance against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Istanbul was the hardest hit with its central Taksim square, lined by hotels, the epicentre of the unrest. Aegean and Mediterranean coastal resorts and other popular destinations, however, were largely unaffected by protests.
Turkey is a major destination for Arab tourists but their numbers are usually lower during Ramadan, which this year fell largely in July.
In 2012 as a whole, the total number of foreign visitors amounted to 31.78 million people, up 1.04 percent from 2011.