Turkey is as safe as the U.S. and European countries, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Feb. 16, suggesting that “no country in the world is safe from terror.”
“There is nowhere that terror does not exist. Fearing terror and being intimidated by terror only serves terror and terrorists. For that reason I am saying proudly and safely: Turkey is just as safe as the U.S. Istanbul is just as safe as Europe. Ankara
is as safe as Sarajevo. İzmir is as safe as Baku,” Yıldırım said at the opening ceremony of the three-day World Tourism Forum in Istanbul.
He also claimed that there are some countries trying to “make gossip” about other countries by declaring them unsafe.
Turkey’s tourism sector has suffered badly from political, diplomatic and security concerns over the past year, but in his speech Yıldırım highlighted the rising importance of the sector.
“The total number of visitors travelling to foreign countries with a touristic purpose in 1980 was around 260 million. Today, this number has risen to 1.2 billion. That means almost one fifth of the world population is travelling to another country for tourism every year. The number of tourists predicted for 2030 by the United Nations World Tourism Organization is close to 2 billion. We have to keep pace with these developments as global countries and take the necessary steps. We must further increase cooperation in the tourism field,” he said.
He also noted that the number of tourists visiting Turkey had tripled since his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) took office in 2002.
“In 2002, the total number of tourists coming to Turkey was around 13 million. This number had risen to close to 40 million last year. So we are taking about an almost threefold increase. Tourism revenue also increased above $30 billion from $12 billion,” Yıldırım said.
The prime minister added that it was not enough to evaluate tourism solely from an economic perspective, stressing that tourism was also important for facilitating the “meeting of cultures and civilizations.”
At the same event, Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avcı also said tourism was not only a “travelling and entertainment sector,” but was a means to develop cultural relationships at the same time.
World Tourism Forum head Bulut Bağcı said the event was bringing together professionals from the sector with more than 40 sessions and would continue in the U.S., Qatar and China.
Also among the participants of the opening ceremony were Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin, foreign guest ministers and a large number of tourism professionals.