Turkey is a Rainbow, Come and Discover it for Yourself

During 2007, 650,000 American tourists visited Turkey. This is the highest number ever recorded. In recent years, the number of tourists visiting Turkey has increased at a rate that is almost three times the world average, with 23.3 million people visiting Turkey in 2007. In 2006, there were 19 million, while in 2005, 21 million visited Turkey. The Culture and Tourism Ministry, which has established a 10 million dollar budget for the North American market in 2008, plans on bringing 1 million American tourists to Turkey by the end of the year.
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Ertugrul Gunay, Culture and Tourism Minister. (By Ali Fuat Ulay)

The Ministry is already promoting Turkey in 83 countries and the US market counts among the most important for Turkey's tourism, according to Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, who talked with us about the ministry's tourism plans, goals, and visions.

Günay has called attention to the rainbow that is Anatolia and its unique legacy of historical and cultural richness, and states: “Some of the oldest and most deep-rooted of all civilizations were born in these lands. Turkey is not only a land of immeasurable beauty, but at the same time sits on a trove of archaeological remnants unmatched in Europe. It's possible to find pieces dating back 10,000 years. The Hittites, Urartus, Lydians, Lycians, and Phrygians were all civilizations that formed in these lands. Homer, Diogenes, and Achilles all lived here. Without a doubt, there is a huge cultural legacy resting here. There is a wealth of cultural heritage here to attract the interest of American tourists.”

Günay states that the 10 million dollar budget put aside for the American market would undoubtedly increase if demand from the US were to increase. He also mentions that the importance of cruise tourism for Turkey has been steadily increasing and that the number of ships coming to Turkish ports would undoubtedly increase in the future.

Turkey is a shining beacon for tourism investors, according to Minister Günay, and among the Mediterranean countries Turkey presented the newest, most modern, and up-to-date facilities of them all.

“ISTANBUL IS A WORLD CITY”
One of Günay's biggest dreams as minister is to endow Istanbul with its deserved status as a giant of world cities. Already having greeted 6 million visitors last year, Günay believes that one day in the not too distant future the city will host 16 million tourists in the span of one year. “It is a huge loss that 15 million tourists are not already visiting Istanbul today,” he says critically.

“Istanbul will compete with cities such as New York, Paris, Vienna, and Rome and has the potential to surpass them in certain areas. Paris can only boast of French culture, and Rome Roman culture, whereas Istanbul has Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences. It has various cultures. Forget all the historical structures, the view of the city is enough to sell itself. If you take historical structures away from other cities, you're not left with much. Istanbul, on the other hand, is a world capital.”
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Gunay is looking at TurkofAmerica' past issue. (By Ali Fuat Ulay)

“THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FOREIGN AND TURKISH INVESTORS”
The ministry plays a coordinating role in actualizing tourism investments, and Günay points out that any facilitating efforts given to Turkish investors are likewise given to foreign investors. Turkey still provides foreign investors with property allotments, tax discounts, the possibility of employing foreign personnel, reduced costs for electricity and water, and other advantages.

It appears as though in the near future the tourism hubs to be developed will be Izmir in the Aegean region and Mersin in the Eastern Mediterranean region. There are no problems with infrastructure in these areas. These areas are also rich as they blend historical legacy and environmental beauty. These areas are not only attractive for Turkish investors but also foreign ones as well.

“TROY: A SOURCE OF FRUSTRATION”
The ministry has shown some effort in utilizing the Hollywood film industry in order to promote Turkey. There is a docu-drama about the famous thinker Mevlana in the works. The 2004 film Troy, which starred Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom, took place within the borders of the city of Çanakkale, in modern-day western Turkey, but, as Günay expresses with great disappointment, the film was actually shot in Malta.

“A source of great sorrow to me was Troy not being filmed in Turkey. We lost a great opportunity. It was an event that took place on these lands and still has traces here. We are still excavating archaeological remnants at Troy. I really want a film to be shot here within the historical setting of Turkey to tell one of the many stories of this land,” he says.

The ten-year Trojan War, recounted in famous historian Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, started when Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Laconia, ran away with Paris, the prince of Troy, an act which enraged the King. The war ended after the King's forces hid inside a large wooden horse presented as a gift and lay siege to Troy. It is possible to explore the area of Troy, where legend has it that Achilles was struck in the heel and the wooden horse was given.  At the moment archaeological digs are ongoing.
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Gunay serves candies made by almond paste. (By Ali Fuat Ulay)

HISTORY AND NATURE TAKE PRECEDENCE
The minister's goals for the tourism industry involve diversifying, thereby ensuring that Turkey's various regions benefit from the riches brought by tourism and that travelers visit evenly throughout the 12-month calendar year instead of just in summer. “We have learned from the mistakes made in the past. We want to transform our cities into well-known brands. Antalya and Istanbul are renowned brands by now. But why not add Cappadocia, Nemrut, and Mersin to that list?” he asks. He adds that he wants to protect the historical and natural environment and maintain high standards of quality. “That's our red line. Within these conditions we are prepared to give all our support to all investors, whether Turkish or foreign,” he says.

CONVENTION TOURISM
Alongside Istanbul's recently announced status as the 2010 European Cultural Capital, Izmir's competition with Milan to host the world's largest fair organization, EXPO 2015 (the results will be known in March), both have the potential to inject some dynamism into the Convention Tourism sector.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry, which have expressed great interest in convention tourism, is currently building a convention center in Kuşadası, located near Izmir. In addition, a convention center is also now under construction near Istanbul in the city of Bursa. By adding Bursa to Istanbul and constructing new facilities around Izmir, the Ministry hopes to attract more people by expanding geographically. Minister Günay believes that the industry and opinion leaders that participate in convention tourism greatly contribute to the promotion of the country.

MINISTER GÜNAY’S DESCRIPTION OF TURKEY
“Turkey is a mosaic. It's a place where colors mix. It's a rainbow created by civilizations and stretches from east to west. I'm not only excited about this as the tourism minister but also as an individual who lives in this country. I had never ceased to be amazed when I previously traveled through Turkey and now this has become my duty. There is a lot to do. I can't sleep. It's a sweet type of excitement, the type one experiences when he or she finally re-unites with a loved one or attempts to convince someone of something with a passion.”

(February 2008, Tourism Special Issue)



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