Turkey and Greece joint tourism effort


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, in the eastern province of Erzurum, where the 2011 Winter Universiade kicked off on Thursday.

In the wake of recent moves to work with Syria in the arena of tourism, Turkey is also now going to cooperate with Greece in the same area. Bilateral meetings between the two neighboring nations to ease reciprocal visa requirements are currently in their final stages.

Turkey has already declared its tourism goals in connection with the 2023 centennial of the republic. The tourism strategy document put out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been updated, including an upward revision of expected tourism revenues for 2023 from $50 billion to $70 billion for that year. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself clarified these goals at the “Turkey marches towards 2023, Ankara comes together with the Justice and Development Party” meeting held last Sunday at the Ankara Arena Sports Hall. Erdoğan called that Turkey had attracted 28.5 million tourists in 2010 and asserted that annual tourism revenues would be $50 billion by 2023. Previous statements made by Culture and Tourism Minister Ertoğrul Günay on several occasions in the past had stressed that Turkey intended to attract 63 million tourists annually by the year 2023. The overriding goal of both the ministry and tourism investors in Turkey is to see Turkey become one of the world’s top five tourism destinations by 2023.

First Syria, then Jordan, then Lebanon, now it’s Greece’s turn

Turkey’s efforts to cooperate with Syria on the tourism front came in the wake of improved diplomatic relations between Ankara and Damascus. Similarly, cooperation agreements were also signed between Turkey and both Jordan and Lebanon on the matter of tourism. Thanks to reciprocal visa exemption agreements with these three nations, there were significant increases in tourism revenues noted. And now Greece, hit hard by the global economic crisis, is also looking warmly on Turkey’s proposal for mutual visa exemptions for certain type of non-diplomatic passports such as those of special passport and service passport holders.

Turkey, which boasts many ancient Roman and Greek sites on its lands, has made a decision to enter into many more cooperative efforts on these particular fronts. Shared projects in the arena of “faith tourism” have also been a topic of focus for Turkey recently. The first step in shared efforts with Greece is to be the opening up of islands in the Aegean and the Mediterranean to Turkish tourists. This is a step that actually started in 2005, but included at that time only a few islands; it is now to be expanded to include many other islands in the seas off Turkey. In 2010, 600,000 Greeks visited Turkey, while only 200,000 Turks visited Greece. If cooperative efforts take hold between Turkey and Greece, the expectation is that these numbers will jump to around 1 million visits by tourists annually on a reciprocal basis

$24 billion in investment to get $70 billion in revenue

According to the 2023 tourism strategy put out by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Turkey needs to invest $24 billion to reach its 2023 goal of $70 billion in tourism revenue. The money invested would include spending on nine regions of interest for tourists, 10 tourism cities, 11 cruise ship ports, nine yacht ports and three modern airports.

As part of this plan, all historic and touristic spots that lie in these regions will be promoted, with details pinpointing even the cleanliness of street signs in any areas that lie within these specified regions. Special signs and placards denoting spots of interest to tourists in these regions would be another focus of this project. According to the strategy document prepared by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, cities that lie inside the specified tourism regions are Adıyaman, Amasya, Bursa, Edirne, Gaziantep, Hatay, İzmir, İstanbul, Konya, Kütahya, Manisa, Nevşehir, Kars, Mardin, Samsun, Sivas, Şanlıurfa and Trabzon. In all of these cities, the plan is to re-enliven cultural tourism and turn them into better-known cultural cities.

Sea tourism is to be the focus in the cities of Antalya, Muğla, Mersin, Trabzon, Samsun, İzmir and İstanbul. New and modern congress centers are also to be built in İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya, İzmir, Konya, Bursa and Mersin, with the general goal of making these places important magnets for congress tourism. The cities of İstanbul, Antalya, İzmir, Ankara, Adana, Gaziantep and Trabzon have also been chosen as spots for trade fair tourism.

Cities tagged as being in Turkey’s winter tourism region are Erzurum (which is hosting this year’s Winter Universiade), Erzincan, Ağrı, Kars and Ardahan. As for the faith tourism region, the cities in this particular corridor have been listed as Tarsus, Hatay, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Mardin.The Silk Road region includes Adapazarı, Bolu, Ankara, Sapanca, Taraklı, Göynük, Mudurnu, Güdül, Ayaş, Geyve and Beypazarı. In the western Black Sea coast region are Turkey’s Şile, Akçakoca, Amasra, Cide, Caylıoğlu and Sinop. As for the plateau region, it starts with Samsun and goes on to include all the plateaus in Ordu, Rize, Giresun, Trabzon and Artvin, all the way to Hopa. The Thracian cultural region includes Edirne, Kırklareli and Tekirdağ. The olive region, which boasts many area specializing in organic agriculture, includes cities such as Bursa, Gemlik, Mudanya, Balıkesir, Gönen, Bandırma, Erdek, Çanakkale, Ezine, Kapıdağ Yarımadası, Avşa, Paşalimanı and the Ekinlik Islands in the Sea of Marmara.

What else is to be done?

In every city included in the 2023 tourism strategy, there are to be city museums built according to international standards.

There are to be no historic, cultural or architecturally notable structures that are not to be restored.

Renewal of the historical fabric of city centers is to be aimed at re-enlivening these spots.

Lighting and environmental projects are to take place around monuments such as castles, aqueducts, ramparts and caravansaries.

Modern food and drink stations are going to be built near historic tourism centers.

Fifteen cities will have new airport hotels built. Also, mass transportation systems will be established to go between airports and city centers.

In coastal cities, work will be done on improving ports and dock areas. Ports and docks that are insufficient in any way will be gotten rid of.

Ports in Trabzon, Kuşadası, Samsun, İzmir, Antalya and Mersin that are large enough to receive visits by cruise ships will be improved and widened.

Yacht marinas in İstanbul, Antalya and İzmir will be upgraded so that they are able to dock “mega yachts.”

Fishing marinas along the Black Sea coastlines will be renovated and improved enough to be able to host yachts.

Facilities built with a view to thermal bath tourism will all be built in Ottoman, Selçuk or Roman architecture.