Tourism to Turkey has struggled following a string of terrorist events and political instability the past year, but travel agents believe the country’s vast natural resources and rich heritage will continue to draw visitors from all over the world.
In the past year Turkey suffered attacks at Ataturk Airport, at a bazaar in downtown Istanbul, and at a nightclub in Ortaköy.
Nevertheless, agents who have visited the country have faith that Turkey’s tourism will rebound. Loretta Murray, director at Able Travel in Mississauga, Ontario, felt extremely safe during her fam trip to Turkey last June, and was overwhelmed by the hospitality of residents and shopkeepers she met. A Pakistani Christian who moved to Canada about 40 years ago, Murray said she felt extremely welcome, and that the blend of Turkey’s religions and cultures (from the Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires) makes for the kind of life-changing experience travel is all about.
“I never felt unsafe. I always felt embraced by the people we met,” Murray said.
Joanna Rummens, marketing manager at Connaissance Travel and Tours in Toronto, said she was amazed at the diversity Turkey presents to travelers. Formally educated in anthropology and sociology, Rummens has a particular interest in Turkey because of the extensive range of religions, cultures and cuisines that can be found there. “The country is so vast, and you find such a wide range of flavors in the cuisine, that come from all of the different cultures who have lived in Turkey. It’s truly amazing,” she said.
“Once someone visits Turkey, they realize how rich the country is in different experiences,” said Numan Olcar, a board member of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies.
Attending Travel Market Place in Toronto this week, Derya Serbeti Acar, director of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in Ottawa, spoke to Travel Market Report about tourism trends and talked about how the country has been promoting itself heavily to Canadian travel agents.
Serbeti Acar noted how Turkey has been emerging as a major golf destination ever since Tiger Woods’ famous golf shot on the Bosphorus Bridge about four years ago. Some of the most famous names in golf, including Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, have designed courses in regions like Belek, on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, and are drawing tourists from all over Europe, and the world.
Belek is located in Turkey’s Antalya province and also is known for its all-inclusive resorts, beaches and thermal spas. Nearby archaeological sites include the Roman amphitheater at Aspendos and the ancient Greek city of Perge’s colonnaded streets.