No place for secularism here: Turkey to spend $1.1 billion on religious-based tourism in 2014
Turks are expected to spend $1.1 billion on pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca this year, according to a recently released report by the Turkish Association of Travel Agents (TÜRSAB).
More than 61,000 Turkish nationals have traveled to Mecca this year to perform the hajj, a ritual compulsory for all Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey. An additional 400,000 Turks have made the journey to Mecca this year to perform the umrah, a non-mandatory pilgrimage which can be done throughout the year, unlike the hajj, which must be performed on specific dates. Journeys are arranged by the Directorate of Religious Affairs and private travel agencies.
According to the report, the average hajj traveler spent 4,000 euros on their trip, while travel costs ranged from a low of 2,780 euros to as much as 17,000 euros. Travelers performing the umrah spent less on their journeys, averaging around 1,500 euros.
Women comprised the majority of hajj and umrah travelers, accounting for 53 percent of those performing the hajj and 62.8 percent of those making the journey for the umrah.
According to the report, 43 provinces in Turkey themselves feature sacred religious sites. However, figures indicate that the number of tourists coming to Turkey for religious purposes has declined significantly in recent years. While 143,969 tourists traveled to Turkey for such purposes in 2007, that figure plunged to 106,743 in 2011 and 59,076 last year. The primary reasons for the decline were attributed to ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq and continued political tension with Israel that contributed to a major decline in Israeli tourists traveling to Turkey.