Last month at the New York Times Travel Show in New York City, new Turkish Tourism Office director Murat Karakus spoke about his strategy for enticing American tourists and business travellers to Turkey.
Karakus explained that Istanbul’s status as “one of the biggest event destinations in Europe” means it’s an attractive - and untapped - resource for potential American travellers.
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) places Turkey 18th in the world for events, with 221 annual international events. Istanbul is the eighth worldwide, with a total of 146 events.
Turkey’s GDP is currently $820 billion, making the country the world’s 17th largest economy. The country welcomed 36.8 million visitors last year.
Karakus also noted that the favourable exchange rate, coupled with the constantly improving infrastructure, including the new Istanbul Airport, which will be the world’s largest when it opens in 2017, makes the country a very enticing prospect for Americans, who typically have not made Turkey a destination. Turkish Airlines, as well as US carrier Delta Airlines, are both increasing their flights to and from the US. American companies such as the Hilton are also increasing their presence in Turkey.
Karakus says that to most Americans, Turkey is an unknown destination, but once they begin to travel there their expectations will be exceeded.
Americans made over 60 million trips to foreign countries in 2012. The bulk of travellers (26 million) headed to nearby Mexico, followed by Canada (15 million), the UK (3.5 million) and the Dominican Republic and France (2 million). Traveller numbers have been increasing as the US moves away from the economic turmoil of the past few years.
Turkish tourism operators are also hoping to attract a greater number of Japanese tourists this year.
The head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies Basaran Ulusoy said that the tourism sector is starting to think of new ways to attract visitors from Japan.
His company had already contacted the relevant organisations in Japan to discuss ways to boost numbers of visitors coming to Turkey, Ulusoy said. He is hoping to increase the present figure of 170,000 annual visitors to 400,000.
He added that his organisation is trying to plant confidence in the Japanese market - and lure them with Turkish food.
“Japanese tourists favour Istanbul, Cappadocia and Denizli. We want to add new destinations. Mardin, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep will be target markets. We believe these places will attract the attention of Japanese people with their culture and history,” Ulusoy said. “We will lure Japanese tourists with Gaziantep cuisine.”
Another aim was to increase the number of return visitors. “Japanese tourists come to Istanbul once and they don’t come again. We want to ensure they will come again. We want sustainable customers.”
Twenty two million Japanese travel abroad each year.
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