How competitive is the tourism sector?
According to what I heard in a television interview with the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), Başaran Ulusoy, Turkey’s target in tourism for 2023 is 50 million tourists and an income of $50 billion.
Will Turkey, which has hosted 32 million tourists in 2012 and has obtained about $24 billion, be able to reach that target? As a person who spent many years in the tourism sector, according to Başaran Ulusoy, this target is not unattainable.
Ulusoy said with 48 airports – many of which are new – with marinas, with congress centers, and with a bed capacity of 1.5 million, Turkey has completed its infrastructure to a great extent; however, there are two topics that need to be taken care of. They are a sustainable environment and gastronomy.
Ulusoy is totally right when he says, “We have an incredible number of unique tastes and products such as the olives of Kilis, the olive oil of Ayvalik, the tulum cheese of Erzincan and the pistachios and baklava of Gaziantep. Turkey has to bring forward its biggest asset; that is, its cuisine.”
Today, gastronomy is gaining more importance and Turkey, no doubt, has one of the most delicious cuisines of the world. However, unfortunately, Turkey has not prioritized this up to now.
Today, we do not hear Turkish cuisine mentioned together with French, Italian, Chinese or even Japanese cuisines.
We strive to have tourists spend more money in Turkey, and one way is through food and beverages.
Ulusoy is also right when he says, “We should not allow our seas to be polluted by fish farms. Also, we should not allow the Kaz Mountains that are mentioned in mythology be attacked by mining companies.”
The “sustainable environment” Ulusoy has pointed out also appears in the Turkey section of the “2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness” report that the World Economic Forum (WEF) issues every two years. The WEF turns the spotlight on the tourism industry every two years, a sector that employs 120 million people indirectly and 125 million directly, and that has a $6 trillion capacity. The Turkey section of the report is prepared with the support of Sabancı University and the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s (TÜSİAD) Competitive Forum.
Turkey occupies 46th place in the report in question among 140 countries. Two years ago, Turkey was in 50th place. In the World Economic Forum report, Turkey’s biggest asset in tourism is considered to be based on its rich “cultural resources,” international exhibitions, fairs and creative industries.
Because of its “cultural resources,” Turkey is placed in the 19th spot among 140 countries, however, when it comes to “sustainable environment,” it is in 95th place. Today, no tourist wants to visit a country where environmental awareness has not been fully implemented.
The WEF report can be a good guide for Turkey to better evaluate its potential and correct its deficiencies, a country that targets 50 million tourists and an income of $50 billion in 2023.