Tourists seeking cheap holidays flock to Turkey, Turkish Airlines stock takes off

Shares of Turkey’s national airline are surging as a plunging currency burnishes the country’s allure as a top destination for foreign travellers.

Shares of Turk Hava Yollari AO, or Turkish Airlines as the company is known internationally, are hovering close to an all-time high after climbing 147% so far this year. That makes it the best-performing stock on the Borsa Istanbul 100 gauge by index points as well as one of the biggest gainers among global airlines.

With the lira losing 22% of its value against the dollar so far in 2022, the droves of tourists flocking back to Turkey are boosting hopes that both Turkish Airlines, and the discount-carrier Pegasus Airlines, up 96% this year, can soon return to capacity levels seen before the pandemic. Meanwhile, firms that generate foreign currency revenue have been a big hit with the domestic stock investors who’ve powered world-beating stock gains for the Turkish bourse.

“Turkish Airlines has hard currency income, making the stock a natural lira hedge,” said Burak Isyar, head of equity research at ICBC Turkey Investment. “Add that to decent profitability the carrier has, and the rally has a recipe to extend gains.”

Boosted by a currency weakened by government’s opposition to hiking interest rates to rein in soaring inflation, Turkish tourism is bouncing back from the pandemic. 

Turkey is targeting 42 million foreign tourist arrivals and $35 billion of tourism revenue in 2022, up from 30 million visitors and $24.5 billion in income the previous year, the state-run Anadolu news service reported in May. Treasury and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati predicts more than 45 million arrivals, the same number as in 2019.

Even so, while the recovery in tourism has been strong, it still might take a while to get back to the momentum seen before Covid-19 upended global travel. Turkish Airlines’ passenger numbers for April were still down 16% from the level seen in the same month of 2019.

The strong performance of Turkish airline shares this year is in stark contrast to that of their global peers. Bloomberg’s global index of airline stocks is down by 5.3% in the same period as the industry grapples with the impact of surging oil prices, Covid-19 lockdowns in China and the task of repaying state aid handed out over the last two years.

Turkish Airlines has also been able to take advantage of a boom in freight business even as passenger travel remains subdued during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the carrier became “pretty much the market owner for flights between Russia and Turkey” after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Esra Sirinel, an Istanbul-based analyst at Is Investment. 


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