Middle East has become a leading feeder market today for Turkey after the many incidents which deterred other feeder markets from visiting this destination. Çetin Gürcün, General Secretary, Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, shares insight of their plans for the region.
Q. How has tourism been between Turkey and Middle East?
Turkish travel agencies offer a wide range of products to satisfy the demand of any segment of the market. Their dynamic enterprising nature and understanding of the market have enabled them to establish successful business relations, contributing to the growth of Turkish tourism. According to the recent figures published by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 25.3 million tourists visited Turkey in 2016, with 2.2 million of the tourists from the Middle East and North African regions. The number of GCC nationals who travelled to Turkey in 2016 increased by 10.5% compared to the previous year to reach a total of 822,849 visitors. The biggest increase pertained to travellers from Saudi Arabia, which saw a growth of 18% to reach 530,410 visitors, while the second-largest increase in tourist numbers was from the UAE at 14 per cent.
Q. What are the benefits offered to travel agents from the Middle East?
The Turkish Government is currently providing operators of charter flights with a $6,000 subsidy to bring foreign tourists into the country. The $6,000 subsidy per scheduled charter flight will be offered until the end of this year to travel agencies carrying passengers on airplanes to Antalya GazipaúaAlanya, Antalya, Muğla Dalaman, Muğla Milas-Bodrum, Izmir Adnan Menderes, Kütahya Zafer, Trabzon, Denizli Cardak, Isparta Sü- leyman Demirel, Eskisehir Hasan Polatkan, Ordu, Giresun Samsun Çarúamba, Erzurum and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airports.
Q. On an average how long does a UAE traveller stay in Turkey and what sort of activities do they prefer to do?
According to a market research report prepared by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (2013 – the latest report that exists), the average staying time of tourists from the United Arab Emirates is one week. The most popular destinations for the UAE citizens travelling to Turkey are Istanbul, Bursa, Yalova, Trabzon, Rize and the Artvin region. UAE visitors usually spend around a minimum of $3,000 per person, which is four times higher than an average European tourist.
Q. How do you plan to attract more visitors from ME this year?
ME is one of the most important markets for Turkish tourism, not only because of the market volume or the high expenditures but also because of the destination preferences in Turkey. Middle Eastern tourists help to improve Turkish tourism in different regions such as Trabzon, Rize, Artvin, Bursa and Yalova. Middle Eastern visitors enable us to differentiate our tourism products and segments and lengthen the tourism season. So in order to attract more tourists from ME, we attend tourism fairs like ATM Dubai every year and hold destination promotion workshops to market Turkey.
Q. How has your association handled negative publicity in terms of safety and security?
Unfortunately, terrorism became a major concern not only for Turkey but also for the whole world recently. It is a global problem. The attacks were not the only reason for the last year’s sharp decline in the Turkish tourism. The political problems between Turkey and Russia, increased terrorist attacks throughout the world including Turkey, the failed coup attempt are the main reasons for the decrease in numbers. The government is taking all necessary precautions, nonetheless, we don’t undermine the situation. The attacks had a negative impact on Turkey’s image, which as TURSAB, we are trying to strengthen. We are attending exhibitions, organising FAMs, B2B meetings and workshops all around the world.