Will Nicole Kidman save Turkish tourism?

Will Nicole Kidman save Turkish tourism?

Hollywood movie star Nicole Kidman has become one of the new faces of Turkish tourism. Advertisements with her have been published in German daily Die Welt and will soon be published in Russian daily Pravda.

 Kidman has herself said she wants to visit Gallipoli due to the shared history of Turkey and Australia. 

The recent International Tourism Bourse (ITB) fair in Berlin was visited by Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Tourism Minister Nabi Avcı. However, Turkish tourism executives have expressed disappointment that it coincided with the peak in tension between Turkey and Europe. 

Participants at the fair expected Çavuşoğlu’s visit to help restore the sector’s relations with Germany.

 However, the visit of both Çavuşoğlu and Avcı only served to escalate tension because of the questions asked to them by the press.  

“Both publications in the German media and discourse rising in Turkey against Germany about ‘fascism’ and ‘Nazism’ have prompted the German tourism sector to start a ‘2017 No Turkey’ campaign,” one tourism executive told me that.

In other words, unfortunately, this year at ITB Berlin there was an anti-Turkey wind blowing. The tourism sector had been expecting relations to improve, but exactly the opposite happened. 

This is a particularly unpleasant situation because Germany was the number one country for sending tourists to Turkey between January and August 2016. The number of incoming German tourists in that period was 2.71 million. The number of tourists from Georgia, in second place, was just over half that number at 1.47 million. 

More than half of the tourists who visited Turkey in the January-August 2016 period came from European countries. 

At a time when the diplomatic crisis with Germany and The Netherlands is escalating, aren’t those who are saying “Europe is finished for us” being too hasty? 

Let’s say we’ll accept a total withdrawal of European tourists. What will happen then about the fact that half of our exports are to EU countries, while EU banks provide the loans for Turkey’s giant infrastructure projects such as bridges, tunnels and airports.

Going back to tourism, Russia is not among the top 10 countries sending the most tourists to Turkey. Let me remind you that because of the crisis we experienced with Russia in 2016, there was an 88 percent fall in the number of Russian tourists coming here. 

That is why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, said “we want to break a record in tourism” and invited “all Russian friends to come to Turkey.” 

So are all hopes now left to Russia, the same country that caused our tourism sector to go through a major crisis one year ago?  

Thankfully, data from our biggest tourism hub Antalya shows that the number of Russian tourists in the first months of 2017 has seen a record increase compared to the same months last year. 

So it looks like both Nicole Kidman and Russia will be playing the leading roles in Turkey’s tourism sector this year.