Great expectations


A TOTAL of 99,797 tourists from the GCC visited Turkey during the first nine months of 2008, which represents less than one per cent of the total tourist arrival numbers.
The country received 21,514,808 tourists from all over to world during this same period, indicating a 13.29 per cent increase over the same period of last year, according to Emin Kaya, cultural and information attaché at the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The country received 16,163 tourists from the UAE, indicating a 47.18 per cent increase. During the first nine months of this year 6,783 tourist visited from Bahrain, 4,219 from Qatar, 19,206 from Kuwait, 48,358 tourists from Saudi Arabia and finally, from Oman there were 5,068 tourists.
“Up until now Saudi Arabia is our top visitor market from the Gulf countries. But according to our market surveys, Kuwait and Qatar had a big interest with regards to visiting Turkey. Whereas the highest increase rate we expected was from Kuwait,” said Kaya.
He said that the GCC market was still fairly new and although the total numbers quite low the tourism board has geared a marketing plan to improve new markets such as GCC where they see huge potential for growth. For the next three to five years, the tourist board was expecting an average increase in tourist number from the GCC of around 45 per cent.
“The worldwide recession has not affected our tourism that much. This year, as a country, we are expecting record tourist numbers and tourism income,” said Kaya. He said that the Dubai office started operations on January 1, where he initiated an aggressive marketing strategy.
“Now we are not only promoting Turkey as a country, we are also focusing more on less popular destinations. For example, this year we selected Antalya and the Black Sea region. Every year we will introduce two new destinations to the market. The important thing for us is to increase awareness about our most hidden treasures and famous destinations. Our target segment is middle to high end travellers in this market.”
He said that Turkey held appeal for its combination of eastern and western cultural history alongside luxury. It had participated in four tourism exhibitions in this region (ATM, BITE, KWE, OTM), other cultural festivals and was also planning to bring in cultural activities to the country.
“We have great expectations for 2009. Up to date, people from this region are flocking to Istanbul, Bursa and Yalova, which are three main tourist destinations, but there’s much more to experience in Turkey,” he said. Part of his plan is to create awareness of these and introduce them to the GCC by suggesting packages offering two different destinations in Turkey.
“Istanbul is going to be announced as the World Cultural Capital of 2010, which means there will be many cultural activities in 2009.