Local tourism firms aim to reach 20 million Turkish travelers
Burak Coşan – ISTANBUL
AA PhotoTurkey’s tourism industry, facing a sharp drop in foreign visitors this year, aims to boost the number of domestic tourists traveling both within the country and abroad to 20 million from the current 16.5 million, a leading industry representative said at a Jan. 20 event organized by daily Hürriyet.
“Some eight million people traveled abroad while another 8.5 million traveled within the county [for vacations],” said Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) President Başaran Ulusoy, discussing last year’s figures.
“We plan to increase these figures sharply. Our goal for 2016 is to increase the number of travelling Turkish citizens to 20 million,” he said at the event, which brought together leading figures from the industry.
Ulusoy said the number of Turkish people travelling inside Turkey stood at a mere 568,000 in 2000.
Turkey’s annual $35 billion tourism industry is at risk of shrinking mainly due to the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Russia, a leading source of foreign visitors, as well as ongoing unrest in the southeast and recent terrorist attacks hitting Ankara and Istanbul.
After a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey on Nov. 24 last year for violating Turkish air space, a number of travel agencies in Russia canceled their Turkey packages in line with government pressure.
Meanwhile, an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet, the heart of city tours, on Jan. 12, further raising security concerns for foreign visitors.
Ulusoy said he contacted the German Travel Association (DRV) in solidarity following the Sultanahmet terrorist attack.
“We know there is a huge problem in Turkey’s southeast,” he said, referring to fresh clashes between the military and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in several urban areas.
“We cannot offer jobs to young people there want to earn their living,” he added.
A number of historic artifacts and museums have been destroyed in the region and across the border in Syria and Iraq, Ulusoy also said, describing this as “the collapse of civilization.”
“We condemn terror and show we are not afraid of it. What they want to do is intimidate us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hürriyet editor-in-chief Sedat Ergin said at the same even that the gates of Hürriyet are “wide open to the tourism sector.”
The Right to travel is a basic aspect of freedom, Ergin added.
“Terrorism targets this basic freedom of ours. But we will stick to our freedom,” he said.
Ergin also stated that the travel supplement of Hürriyet’s Sunday edition rivaled its counterparts in the West, pledging full support to the sector.