Turkey running out of spaces to attract tourists

Turkey running out of spaces to attract tourists

“Why shouldn’t Turkey be number one?”

This question based on a wish was voiced during a tourism conference organized by the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) and Mastercard.

While reading news on the conference, seeing positive numbers like the fact that the tourism income has doubled in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year or the huge hike in the number of incoming tourists, one naturally gets hopeful.

Turkey has witnessed a fast growth in the tourism sector, the smokeless industry. The measurable benefits that came with this growth are clear enough: The flow of foreign currency and the employment opportunities that have been created as it is a labor intensive sector, etc.

The damages, on the other hand, were always seen as “tolerable” or deemed insignificant next to the benefits.

Turning nature’s heavens into concrete, uncontrolled frenzy of construction, problems of infrastructure that did not develop in parallel to growth, and so on…

Examples like Kuşadası or Bodrum in the Aegean region, which are becoming uglier and uglier every passing day, are there.

Having suffered a setback in the course of the past few years due to terror incidents and contentions in the international dimension, the tourism sector is recovering and will be having a “resurrection” in 2018.

Ranking among the first 10 countries in terms of the number of visitors, Turkey usually was on the bottom of the list in terms of income.

The mentality of economy of scale is probably number one responsible behind this situation.

In the course of the past few years, Turkey gave the message that the country offers to tourists more than the “sun-sea-sand” trio (like gastronomy, history, outdoor sports) and progress was registered in that area.

Yet the main focus of tourism remained (naturally) the “sun-sea-sand” trio.

In response to the decreasing numbers of Western and European tourists, visitors from Arab countries and Asia were seen as panacea and investments started to take shape in accordance to this new type of client group.

The transformation that is taking place in and around Taksim, which made it to the front page of the world’s most important magazines in the first half of 2000’s under the headline “Cool Istanbul,” can be seen as the concrete example of the new shape tourism investments have taken.

Night clubs, whose quality could compete with those in London or New York, have turned into shops selling lokum or hookah.

Everyone can have its own cost/benefit calculation in this endeavor driven by “let’s just have tourists coming” mentality.

In my opinion it is wrong. It could be right according to the owners of small shops or those working in the tourism sector.

But if we genuinely have the intention of becoming “number one,” we need to draw a clean-cut line between growth and the slaughter of nature.

If we continue to ruin the breathtaking coasts… if we continue with the cruelty of burning forests, depleting rivers, filling seas to make space for hotels and continue as clients to support these endeavors… And if we don’t minimize the bans and antidemocratic behaviors and widen freedoms, neither development nor growth will be sustainable.

Look at this recent news: An urgent decision has been taken for the expropriation to construct a natural gas port in Saros Gulf, a region that is like a part of heaven.

I do not know if this approach which is disrespectful to archaeology, history and nature will make us number one. But I am sure that in the long run we will run out of places to attract tourists.

Turkish tourism, Saros, Bodrum, kuşadası