This year has certainly been an interesting year for Turkey. The Turkish Tourism Ministry, fully aware the country needed to boost tourist confidence following troubles in 2015 and 2016, put an ingenious plan in place to entice visitors from further afield – and it seems to have worked. Tourist numbers are booming. The streets of Istanbul and the coastal resorts are once again beaming with tourists and many cultural and heritage sites are already reporting record numbers of visitors. Attracted by a weak Turkish lira and diverse range of attraction campaigns, it’s no longer simply the Brits and Europeans that are visiting Turkey. A new wave of travellers from Japan, China, Asia, India and the Middle East are now booking tours or taking vacations in Turkish resorts. Turkey is now back on track and well in line to exceed its 32 million tourist target for 2018.
China has declared 2018 as its “Turkey Tourism Year,” in a move expected to boost ties between the two countries, Chinese Ambassador to Ankara Yu Hongyang said on Dec. 16. “China has declared 2018 as the ‘Turkish Tourism Year’ in China. This will increase the friendship between the two countries,” Hongyang said at an event hosted by the Turkish Business and Industry Association (TÜSİAD) in Istanbul.
TÜSİAD head Cansen Başaran-Symes also underlined the importance of tourism relations between the two countries.
“China has become the country that sent the most tourists abroad with 120 million people in 2015. The number of tourists going abroad in the next five years is estimated to reach 600 million. This is a very high figure. The rapidly growing Chinese population is in search of better quality products and services. Accordingly, besides cultural tourism, different tourism areas such as shopping tourism, health tourism and golf tourism are becoming very popular among the Chinese people. Any efforts to attract Chinese tourists in these areas will create tremendous added value to the tourism sector in 2017,” she said.
Currently, Turkish Airlines flies to five cities in China and this number is expected to increase, according to officials.
Indian tourists on the horizon
India, one of the world’s two countries with a population of more than 1 billion, ranks second in group organization after the U.S. and first in wedding tourism.
Turkey, which is aiming to get a share of the $60-billion Indian wedding industry, has made serious progress in the last two years with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to India and the efforts of local tourism companies.
With aims of developing market diversity in the tourism industry, Turkey is focusing on India, a country that sends 22 million tourists abroad annually. The congress of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), which carries 80 percent of Indian tourists, is being held in Turkey from Oct. 27-31 with the support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
A total of 650 Indian agents, each carrying at least 10,000 tourists abroad, gathered at the Hilton Dalaman Sarigerme where the congress is being held.
Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş attended the meeting that was organized by the Turkish Indian Tourism Council (TITC) and the Dalaman, Ortaca and Köyceğiz Association of Touristic Hoteliers and Tourism Operators (DOKTOB). Kurtulmuş said that opening up to new markets is considered as a strategic vision in Turkey, stressing that India especially is a potential country with a middle-class population of 350 million.
He added that the Turkey-India Joint Working Group will convene in Turkey next year and steps will be taken to further develop relations between the two countries.
Meanwhile, TAFI President Praveen Chuch said, “Our goal in coming here is to increase the number of tourists coming from India to Turkey.”
On the other hand, TITC President Emin Çakmak recalled that 80,000 Indians came to Turkey last year, noting, “We will close this year with similar figures.”
Indian tourists travel to Turkey for a wide range of purposes ranging from weddings to film tourism and from culture to nature. They travel the most during the March-April and October-November periods, also known as the “dead season.”
Speaking to journalists in Muğla regarding the tourism representatives’ request for support in charter flights, Minister Kurtulmuş said they have reached the final stage of the project on tourism incentive package.
“With this package, we plan to provide charter support to tourists from different regions. We will also support agencies that bring tourists during the slow seasons, to spread tourism across 12 months. We will submit this project to the Council of Ministers,” he concluded.