Several tools to promote Turkey
Turkey should distance itself from “all inclusive” tourism and focus on faith and nature tourism in order to draw tourists who will spend money in the country.
Even though it seems irrelevant to write on tourism during these painful times for the country, it is exactly the right time to talk about tourism when so many people, from the hotel owner to agencies, transportation staff, tourist guides and service staff are negatively affected.
While the west of the country is like this, when we look at the east of the country, we see an even darker picture.
There are no tours left in the east of the country; tourism has ended there. Tour companies can no longer take tourists to eastern destinations like Mardin, Van and Doğubeyazıt. Those who make a living from tourism in Mardin are in a very difficult situation.
In the past, Armenian heritage tours were organized to the east of Turkey; people were frequently taken around Malatya, Elazığ, Harput and their environs. There are still many Armenian villages to be visited in the area but people are now afraid to travel there.
There are also exceptionally beautiful hiking routes in East Anatolia. Those who have been there know it; the nature of the region and its air are fantastic.
Unfortunately, nature tourism has come to an end there.
Tourism has special significance in lowering the regional development gap. For life to return to its natural course in these regions, it is also a must for development. While a strong economy is desired, this should not be forgotten.
Besides faith and nature tourism, the third leg of tourism that generates money for the country is short city tours. For seven or eight years, Turkey was very popular in that sense. Due to the fact that Turkish Airlines (THY) is very strong in many countries, Istanbul had started to become a serious hub.
For instance, tourists flying to Sicily from Los Angeles would select a stopover in Istanbul instead of very expensive European stopovers and spend two or three days in Istanbul – sometimes even making a daily visit to Ephesus. This year, we have lost all of it.
As a matter of fact, we, as a country, did not do much in the past years to divert people to Turkey for short city tours. It was travel magazines such as Conde Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure that put a sheen on Istanbul. You cannot say that we made use of our potential in this field either. You can easily see how cities like New York and Paris are promoted through Hollywood.
Even though Istanbul is sometimes used in films, the state has not yet made an overall arrangement to facilitate this.
Tour guide Mert Taner was taking famous director Christopher Nolan around in 2012. “He wanted to explore areas in Turkey to shoot films and wanted some support. We wrote to the Tourism Ministry about 20 times. Only THY said they would charge half price for tickets. That’s all.” Nolan returned empty-handed.
In many countries, foreigners wishing to make films in the country are facilitated in every way because cinema is a very widespread and strong promotion tool. Here, in our country, this has been the topic of debates for years but nothing has changed.
As you can understand, we have many tools to promote Turkey, but there is nobody willing to use them.