Turkish tourism seeks impetus as industry struggles

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Turkey’s tourism representatives are working on a set of new measures in efforts to revive the industry buffeted by a mix of terror attacks, a failed coup and strained ties with foreign countries.

Hotel managers across the country have established a Tourism Hotel Management Association (TUROYD) lately in a move to create and develop new alternative projects in a fastest way since “Turkish tourism has lost so much blood.”

Launching rehabilitation centers as well as projects related to ecology, health, gastronomy and culture are among the new alternatives cited by sector representatives, apart from hosting weddings and creating new destinations.

Turkey’s tourism suffered a loss of 30 percent in both foreign arrivals and revenue in 2016, the lowest in the last nine years, as a result of a spate of bombing attacks, a military coup bid in July last year and unending rows with Russia and other European countries.

Latest official figures show that the fall in revenue continued in the first quarter of this year at a rate of 17 percent, while the number of foreign tourists fell by 6.43 percent.
At a recent meeting in Istanbul, the TUROYD pledged to dedicate its efforts in creating new projects rather than keeping to “sun, sand and sea tourism.”

“Sun, sand and sea tourism has been constituting 90 percent of the whole tourism policy of Turkey since 1984,” Ali Can Aksu, head of the TUROYD, told Xinhua.
“It is a very wrong move and the collapse of that policy is inevitable,” he said, emphasizing the importance of diversity in tourism.

The association lately came up with the idea of establishing rehabilitation centers for retired foreigners in green areas across Turkey.

Aksu said the project aims to attract Europeans, as the amount of money they allocate to their retirement is significantly higher than that in other parts of the world.

Aksu’s group presented its project to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism last week, and he urged state authorities not to lose time, as “it will take ten years for the industry to catch its previous speed under best-case scenarios.”

The rate of hotel occupancy in Istanbul stands at around 50 percent now, while it is 55 percent for Turkey’s Mediterranean resort of Antalya, which lost most of its Russian visitors after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in November 2015.

“Despite the normalization efforts of the two sides, the current situation in the region is far below the expectations,” said Nihat Tumkaya, board member of the Professional Hotel Managers’ Association and director of IC Hotels.

“The sector couldn’t get out of the trouble as we actually couldn’t catch the expected potential in attracting European and Russian tourists,” he told Xinhua.

Hotel managers have pledged increased cooperation and partnership with NGOs across the globe in a move to promote Turkey’s tourism abroad.

Noting the hotel managers have 81 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of tourism facilities across Turkey at their disposal, Aksu said they are ready to reconstruct the country’s tourism industry.

“We have the chance to influence the choices and opinions of foreign tourists about our country in our direct communication with them,” he added.

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