As Turkey prepares for further growth in tourism Emin Kaya, cultural and information attaché Turkish Consulate Cultural & Information Office, Dubai, UAE speaks to Shalu Chandran
How have tourist arrivals fared in 2009 and how much does the Middle East contribute to that?
Last year was a very successful year for us. Up to November 2009, we witnessed an average of 20 per cent increase in tourist arrivals from the region alone and the four countries responsible were the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait – that is about 100,000 tourists and this does not include the expat population. We receive a similar number of arrivals from the expat population living in the region. The Middle East accounted for the highest growth in tourist arrivals.
The other three major markets are Germany, Russia and the UK. Looking ahead to 2010, we expect at least a 40 per cent increase in arrivals from the region. We believe that the Middle East holds a lot of potential and, when compared to the other markets like Germany or Iran, there is still a lot of opportunity for growth.
What kind of marketing programmes do you have lined up for the region in 2010?
This is the sixth year of our presence in the Middle East and two years back, when we conducted a market survey, we realised that while there is a lot of awareness of turkey as a country, there isn’t enough information on the destination, thus we have initiated destination based awareness programmes. We now choose two new destinations each year to educate the travel trade on what they can expect from these places. Even with Antalya, currently the most visited city in Turkey, receiving almost nine million tourists every year, there are many agents out there who are not aware of this destination.
So this year we will plan familiarisation trips, promote the destination through TV channels and, for the first time, we have our own country pavilion at the Global Village in Dubai which, besides giving people an insight on the country’s products, will have a cultural centre to guide tourists keen to visit Turkey.
What is the product that most appeals to Middle East travellers?
Until three years ago, travellers were aware of three destinations in Turkey – Istanbul, Bursa and the Yalova. But in 2009, tourists have been willing to explore newer destinations such as Antalya, Bodrum and the Black Sea region known for its natural rain forests. In 2009, 80 per cent of those who visited the region were from the Arab countries.
Our partner, Emirates Holidays, now promotes hotels in this region showing its fast-growing popularity. In a city like Antalya, there are 1,000 hotels, of which 300 are five-star properties and five seven-star hotels. So, we have hotels to cater to all kinds of needs and demands. That, along with our easy accessibility, lovely weather and similar food tastes contributes to the growth in arrival numbers from the Middle East region.
What are your plans for 2010?
We have been very successful with our destination-based promotion and this year we will introduce product-based promotions such as medical tourism, golf tourism and winter tourism. We want to send professionals from the region to show our resources and the hotels available and educate our sellers. Last November, we received a 423-per-cent increase in arrivals from the region, which again shows that we have a market to develop and need to look beyond the traditional peak season. We are developing the country into a year-long destination. Winter sports and golf are new areas that will bring tourists with high income and groups interested in culture to Turkey.
We have more regional airlines flying to Istanbul, with Etihad launching flights last year, Air Arabia increased frequencies to four times a week and in 2010, maybe flydubai too will launch flights, giving us an opportunity to increase numbers dramatically.
As European Capital of Culture, what are your plans this year?
The government has established an association with hundreds of planned activities throughout the world and we are planning to conduct Cultural Days some time in April or May when we will have exhibitions and activities and exhibit Turkish products. All over the world, there will be more than 200 projects.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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