Restoration turns castle into Spongebob
The restoration of a 2000-year old castle in Sile, Istanbul, has been derided by Turkish social media users, who say the monument now looks like cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.
The reaction from netizens was swift. One commented:“Amazing. They restored the Sile Castle and turned it into SpongeBob monument. I doff a hat to such aesthetic pleasure.” Another said the castle’s appearance was a world first: “I have been in restoration business for four years. This is the first time I witness a castle restoration that looks like SpongeBob.”
Other commentators say the efforts are more like Minecraft. “Restoration? You better not be involved! The 2000-year-old monument had turned into Minecraft Castle.”
The municipality hasn’t commented on the restoration process.
Sea tunnel to open by end of next year
Turkey’s second tunnel project should be up and running by the end of 2016 - six months ahead of schedule, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Transport.
The huge tunnel project, linking Kazlicesme on the European side and Goztepe in Asia will reduce the city’s notorious traffic - second only to Moscow for congestion in Europe.
The underwater section, which will be completed this week, will be 3.34 kilometres long, while the tunnel itself will have a total length of 14.6km. At its deepest point the tunnel will reach a depth of 106.4 metres beneath the Bosphorus Strait.
Designed for cars, minibuses and other light vehicles, who will pay a minimum of $4 to pass through, the tunnel will have a travel time of 15 minutes.
The tunnel is unique in that it has two lanes for cars that travel above and below a railway route.
The tunnel is the second underwater project in Istanbul after the Maramay, a railway tunnel under the Bosporus which has already transported around 21 million passengers in the first six months following its inauguration in October 2013.
Turkey has plenty of room to capitalise on tourism potential
Turkey is currently sixth in the world for tourist numbers - however, there is room for improvement, according to figures.
The 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index puts Turkey at 44 in a table of 141 countries. The index, which evaluates countries’ performance in the tourism sector, in includes categories like transport, environment and security.
The index puts Turkey at number 12 in terms of tourism revenues, while the country scored highest on points such as health, tourist infrastructure, business and air transport.
Professor Orhan Icoz, head of Tourist Guiding at Yasar University, said Turkey’s tourist industry needed to “reassess itself” in order to move up the index.
Tax free tourism zones to bolster spending
Tax-free tourism zones will be introduced at certain points along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.
Aimed specifically at cruise ship and yacht arrivals, the plan involves the creation of designated areas that will be treated as outside national borders - meaning that anyone arriving into the country by boat won’t need their passport to access them.
The plans, which were unveiled by Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, aim to increase Turkey's tourism revenue by allowing visitors greater convenience and giving the country a competitive tourist edge.
Zeybekci said the zones will be established in Cesme, Bodrum, Didim, Marmaras and the Antalya region. The minister said it's envisaged that foreign boats and ships will dock, allowing tourists to disembark into the tax-free zones without their passports. The zones will have shopping facilities and hotels as well as entertainment services, specifically geared to target high-spend tourists.
The zones will adopt a “fast-paced” tourism approach, according to the minister, with continuous tourist flow.
Since the zones will be concentrated in Turkey’s top coastal tourist zones, the project will make Turkey a convenient and attractive destination for cruises and yacht tours around the Aegean and Mediterranean.
The zones will also give Turkey a competitive edge over its main rivals. EU visitors of course do not need a visa for Spain, Italy or Greece, but they do for Turkey. By making zones where passports are not required, Turkey will attract more tourists just traversing the coast and wanting to stop off for supplies, as well as, of course, cruise ship passengers.
Cruise traffic increases in Turkey
Cruise ship passenger numbers to Turkey increased by 20 percent in the first half of this year over the same period in 2014, according to data from the Touristic Hoteliers’ Association of the Mediterranean.
In the first six months of the year 647,984 visitors spilled off cruise ships and into Turkey’s coastal resorts, an improvement on last year’s figure of 538,409.
Istanbul was a major destination, receiving 51 percent more cruise traffic this year, followed by Aegean hotspot Kusadasi.
Almost 1.8 million cruise passengers visited Turkey last year.
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