Diversification in tourism is the key

Diversification in tourism is the key

Aylin Öney Tan - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
Diversification in tourism is the key

Diversification was the key word marking the recent 3rd Tourism Council in the capital Ankara.

Turkey’s new tourism policy aims to attract visitors from Asia and South America, while also diversifying the country’s tourism attractions, emphasizing nature, culture, heritage and - last but not least - gastronomic and culinary heritage, as stated at the opening speech of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The last Tourism Council was organized 15 years ago. A recent one on culture, the 3rd National Culture Council, was held earlier this year in March. Until 2003 the Culture Ministry and the Tourism Ministry were separate institutions, with a previous history of being united and separated over the years.

The latest Tourism Council was meticulously organized, well-prepared and precisely executed, as noted by Bülent Akarcalı, the head of the policy commission and a former tourism minister.

Due to my previous job as a conservation architect, I have closely worked with the Culture Ministry over my whole career, especially as the director of the Word Bank-financed Turkey Cultural Heritage Project. I also had the chance to closely observe the Tourism Ministry, as the wife of the minister in charge when tourism in Turkey went through one of its worst crises ever after Abdullah Öcalan was captured and handed to Turkey in 1999.

Perhaps due to my endless nagging on the topic, my husband, Ahmet Tan, was Turkey’s first tourism minister to emphasize the importance gastronomy in tourism. I remember him personally calling the late culinary writer Tuğrul Şavkay to ask for his help. Alas, his time as minister only lasted four-and-a-half months and Şavkay sadly passed away in 2003.

I was allowed in the meetings as an observer and had a chance to comment and contribute to the heated debates of ministry commission members. In general, the situation today is strangely similar to the periods I witnessed in the past, and most topics that we used to discuss are still valid today. I remember writing the first ever site management terms of reference with my friends early in the 2000s as part of our cultural heritage project in Pamukkale Hierapolis, and site management is still a complicated issue yet to be mastered.

Now more inclined in culinary topics, I was more than happy to observe the first ever gastronomy tourism commission headed by Vedat Başaran, famous chef and food culture researcher. His stark interruptions to ongoing debates, especially to my intruder comments, were handled deftly with humor not to offend anyone. With the passionate contribution of all parties - a well-thought-out and detailed commission report was written.

Now our hope is for a well-structured implementation plan, with an even and just distribution of resources to all stakeholders concerned. Putting diversification on the table is the key to success!


Inspired by the council’s three-day brainstorming marathon, I developed a key guideline for creating a foolproof recipe, which is applicable to any dish, whether sweet or savory. Accumulated tastes reach their zenith when you add multiple layers of flavor to a base recipe. A deep knowledge of history should come with a complete understanding of the ingredients and techniques employed.

Using the best local and seasonal produce is essential. To cook with the wisdom of the past, and patiently pursue the old rituals and traditions. The secret ingredient is a dash of openness that embraces design, creation and innovation, and avoids the temptation of culinary plagiarism and fraudulent imitation. If cooked with heartfelt passion and served with Turkish hospitality, any dish that follows these simple rules will surely conquer global palates.

News of the Week: three cities from Turkey have been chosen to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, in the categories of gastronomy, design and crafts & folk art. These three categories are closely related to the new perspective of the new tourism strategy of Turkey. As Kaya Demirer, director of Turkish Restaurant & Entertainment Association (TURYİD) stated, this is an opportunity to showcase Istanbul as a hub of fashion, design and gastronomy.


It is a great coincidence that some of the new aspirations (design, innovation, gastronomy) for tourism in Turkey are already being promoted in the U.S., though perhaps without the knowledge of many people, the Tourism Ministry included.

Talented home baker, food stylist and photographer Cenk Sönmezsoy has just completed a book tour in the US to launch his fascinating colossal work “The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts from an Obsessive Home Baker” (Abrams, New York). Cenk Sönmezsoy is the creator of Café Fernando www.cafefernando.com, the award-winning food blog cited as one of the “World’s 50 Best Food Blogs” by The Times UK, and was named “Best Culinary Travel Blog” by Saveur.

Cenk’s work combines design and gastronomy in the most artful way, and of course he is always remembered with his unforgettable creation Dolce & Gabbana Brownies wearing a seductive chocolate lace over a veil of velvety hazelnut butter coating. Though his recipes are universal, his creative use of Turkish ingredients like Antep pistachios, tahini, kaymak, salep and even leblebi is remarkable as in the Pistachio & Matcha Sablés or Tahini & Leblebi Swirl Brownies. Well done Cenk, as usual you’re ahead of time!

Aylin Öney Tan, hdn, Opinion,