Kurdish problem takes toll on Turkey's tourism
by Leah Bower, Special to Gulf News
Turkey's troubles with Kurdish separatists and
its proximity to the Iraq war have hit its travel
and tourism market hard, a devastating blow to
a country which depends heavily on an influx
of foreign money.
It is a trend the country, which
straddles Asia and Europe both physically and
culturally, is planning to reverse this year.
"$8 million was spent last year to advertise Turkish tourism," said
Hasan Zongur, Director of the Turkish Cultural
and Tourism office in the US.
situation] is getting better, but after 9/11,
tourism numbers dropped. For this year, it
is getting better. This is mainly because of
our public relations activities and promotional
campaigns carried out in the US market and
in the South American countries and Canada."
to Business Monitor International (BMI), everything
from terrorist attacks in Turkey to the war
in Lebanon and a bird flu outbreak kept tourism
numbers low in 2006 - 6.2 per cent lower year-on-year
than in 2005.
"In line with the fall in foreign tourist arrivals, international tourist receipts declined in 2006 by around four per cent year-on-year to $18.6 billion. This followed a near 15 per cent year-on-year rise in international tourist receipts in the previous year," said
BMI's third quarter report on Turkish tourism.
the country has repeatedly seen annual increases
in the number of visitors of 10 per cent 15
per cent over the past 15 years, there have
been several significant reversals in growth,
such as during the 1991 Gulf War, which saw
arrivals fall by more than 20 per cent, and
the 2003 Gulf War."
despite a rocky recent past, the future of
Turkish tourism looks promising. The country
has the eighth-highest tourism receipts in
the world and is benefiting from a steadily
strong euro, which gives it an advantage over
rival destinations such as Greece.
that the number of foreign arrivals reached
almost 9.7 million between January and June
2007, an increase of almost 17 per cent of
2006's weak numbers. "Although BMI had anticipated a recovery in the tourism market in 2007, recent data are even stronger than expected," the
Those are the kinds of numbers
Turkey needs, considering the economic importance
of its tourism market.
The travel and tourism
market is expected to generate $62.6 billion
in econ-omic activity this year, according
to the World Travel and Tourism Council. It
also accounts for one in very 14.6 per cent
of jobs - about 1.56 million in 2007.
Zongur said Turkey is
looking to branch out into areas of tourism
new to the country that boasts relics from
the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman empires.
"Now we are developing our health tourism facilities," he said. "We also have great facilities for conferences." BMI
expects Turkey's medical tourism sector to
increasingly draw patients from Europe and
the Middle East, but also named golf tourism
as a likely growth area.