3 million tourists expected at Göbeklitepe this year
Umut Erdem – ŞANLIURFA
Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy has said he expects Göbeklitepe, an archeological site in Turkey’s southeastern Şanlıurfa province, to receive more than 3 million tourists this year, threefold of last year’s figure.
“We see a very fast acceleration [in terms of tourist numbers] in Göbeklitepe. There is a 300-percent increase in the number tourists coming here [so far compared to the same period of last year]…I guess that [the place] will receive more than 3 million visitors this year. This figure was about 1 million last year,” said Ersoy on May 27.
“Even though European countries have lifted their firm security warning for Turkey’s eastern provinces, it is still there. But with Göbeklitepe, we have started to break this [image of security threat in southeast Turkey]. And western tourists have started to come,” said Ersoy.
The minister made the comments during the 2019 Europe Orient Rally stop in Göbeklitepe. The rally launched on May 11 in the German city of Heilbronn and after passing through Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia respectively, it entered Turkey via the northwestern province of Edirne on May 15.
The rally’s next stops were Istanbul, the Black Sea region and the capital Ankara in Turkey. It later crossed to Georgia, from where it went to Iran. Then came again to Turkey, this time to the eastern provinces.
Ninety cars, 35 teams and 150 athletes from 10 different countries are participating in the rally, which will finish on June 1.
The rally racers were welcomed by Ersoy during their tour in Şanlıurfa.
“This is very pleasing organization. Bringing together Göbeklitepe, which is the humanity’s joint heritage, with this amazing sports activity is very meaningful,” Ersoy said, addressing the rally racers and reporters.
Ersoy also touched upon the overall tourism figures of Turkey.
“We have caught a very good number in April [in terms of tourists]. We are approaching our target of 50 million [tourists for 2019]. And we want to take the tourist spending per night [in Turkey] to the level of $85-$90 by the year 2023. And hopefully we will reach the target of 70 billion dollars,” said Ersoy, referring to the tourism revenues Turkey expects yearly.
Turkey’s southeast is said to experience its golden year in tourism in 2019 as it marks the “Year of Göbeklitepe,” the site of the world’s earliest temple.
For decades, Turkey’s restive southeast has lived through despair and turmoil, with clashes between the Turkish state and the illegal PKK claiming more than 40,000 lives. But Ankara says it has finally brought tranquility to the region, unleashing a tourism campaign to bring tourists in droves.
Besides the usual faith and cultural tourist hotspots, the region’s other monumental sites drew a flood of visitors last year.
With the Year of Göbeklitepe kicking off, tour companies have prepared full-fledged tours with various events planned.
Tourists are expected to visit the nearby picturesque province of Mardin and the culinary heaven of Gaziantep to experience a full golden year in a region that has never seen such levels of tourism.