Despite the world’s financial crisis, which had a severe effect on the international tourism sector, the number of GCC tourists selecting Turkey as favorable touristic destination has increased in 2009 by 16.45%. Figures from recent statistics have shown that over 27m tourists from around the world have visited Turkey during 2009, which makes an increase by 2.8% from year 2008. Out of the entire world, GCC tourists have made the biggest increase as the number of Kuwaiti tourists was increased by 21.36%, then comes the United Arab Emirates by 12.07%, Bahrain by 12.49%, Saudi Arabia by 20.31%, and Qatar by 0.82%.
Mr. Emin Kaya, the Cultural & Information Attache in Dubai and the Turkish Tourism Office Manager in UAE, is expecting to have these figures continue to increase despite the financial crisis because of the rich cultural and touristic ingredients that Turkey has and that can attract the Arab, and especially GCC citizens, to come and visit Turkey. “We realize the cultural and religious values of the GCC people which sustain the strong relationships between Turkey and GCC Countries”.
Mr. Kaya added: “Our marketing and promotional strategies during 2010 will include various activities and events in order to attract more tourists to choose Turkey for their next holiday plans. Historical and cultural exhibitions, free touristic trips to journalists, participation at ATM Dubai, and musical and traditional concerts and dances throughout the GCC countries, are all part of a whole strategy to bring people’s attention to Turkey and to show its ability to be a very interesting tourism destination”.
“We work hard to support the vision and efforts of the Ministry of Tourism in Ankara that aim to sustain the tourism promotional activities in this region and to achieve a continuous growth for the Turkish tourism products until we reach to all regional and international markets. Building sustainable relationships with the region’s countries is a very important part of these efforts; Turkey and United Arab Emirates, for example, have been working together for the last few years in order to build new plans to support the cultural and tourism interchange between both countries”, Said Mr. Kaya.
Increased interest in Health Tourism
Mr. Kaya stated that the advertising and promotional campaign in the Arab world for 2010 will focus on introducing and marketing Turkey as a health and medical tourism destination. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism is showing big interest in this direction as a part of its long-term plan to sustain the need of attracting all type of tourists to visit Turkey. Mr. Kaya assured that the Turkish Government has recently offered a number of investment opportunities and facilities to invest in the medical and health tourism sector for both the Turkish and foreign investors where they can build health and spas near the natural and thermal springs. According to official statistics, over 200 health and spa centers will be built as per this plan.
Mr. Kaya cited Afyon City, which has five resorts by mineral springs and that has been selected recently as a model city and future capital for mineral springs’ tourism. Not being a country for recreation and rejuvenation only, Turkey has a reputation of being one of the countries that has advanced medical services with relatively reasonable rates and the ability to carry out hard medical operations such as open heart operations and many other medical services that lately have an increased demand.
The Turkish Government has revealed a long-term plan until 2023 that aims to sustain the health and medical tourism in order to make best use of the unique natural wealth that the country has. The Government is planning to attract Arab tourists in general and GCC tourists in special and to introduce Turkey as a distinguished health and medical destination, bearing in mind the cultural and geographical closeness to these countries that their tourists prefer to come to a country that appreciates the Islamic culture at the same time has everything for them.
Mr. Kaya also said that the United Arab Emirates is the third after Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in terms of the number of tourists visiting Turkey from GCC Countries, where the most favorable touristic cities they like to visit are Istanbul, Yalova, Bursa, Bodrum, and Antalya.
Recently, Istanbul was officially selected to be the 2010 European Capital of Culture, where the events and activities of year 2010 were launched in the middle of the last month to present 170 cultural events and more than 500 civil and cultural projects, besides many other artistic events that can play a major role in attracting more tourists from Arab and GCC countries to come and visit Istanbul, which has both the eastern and western aspects.
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