How significant is the India market for the tourism industry in Turkey?
India’s importance for Turkish tourism is growing. India’s rise as an emerging power and an economic powerhouse is the main reason behind this. Being a member of BRIC nation group it has catapulted India to a different league. Income and literacy level is rising and the middle class, who has an aspiration and urge to travel, is ever growing. Thus the Turkish Tourism Board started to look at this market with more focus and attention. Incoming Indian tourists to Turkey is seeing a yearly growth of 18 per cent. The total figure touched 73,700 last year. We expect it to better this year.
What are the key places of interest for Indian tourists?
I observe that Indians generally prefer to visit Turkey for its historical and cultural values. Therefore they realise how much we have in common. Moreover, Turkish shopping centres are a delight as a part of their travel itinerary. The most visited place other than Istanbul are Antalya, Izmir and Cappadocia.
Istanbul is known as the International Gateway City to Turkey and attracts the most number of Indian tourists. It is a cosmopolitan city in essence and caters to the need of every international visitor, including Indians. The city boasts of some well known historical bazaars along with modern markets and malls. Antalya has been the main destination for sun, sand and sea for foreign tourists for many years. It is also known as the Turkish Riviera. Cappodocia is a ‘must visit’ for tourists to Turkey. Besides the weird fairy chimney landscape, the cave dwellings, churches, fortresses and mind-boggling underground cities are fascinating and unforgettable. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey. It has a special cultural and historical identity. It is not far from Ephesus that was home to Mother Mary during her last days and has now become a shrine for Christian followers worldwide.
Has there been any interesting new trends in recent times?
When Turkey started to be discovered by the Indian tourists some years ago, we were receiving more leisure travellers, mostly the family segment. But of late, in addition to the leisure travellers, we see more wedding travellers, honeymoon couples and young people coming as cultural or adventure tourists.
Which are the other destinations that Indian tourists do not normally visit but could be a great attraction for them?
There are so many, to name a few: Ankara, the capital of Turkey, has lots to offer to Indian tourists as Central Anatolian History and also shopping. Konya, another Central Anatolian city neighbouring Ankara, is a must see for Mevlana, Sufism and whirling dervishes. Mardin, for example, is a holy city for Christianity. It is the house for Syrian Christians which is the oldest Christianity sect in existence. Out of four million faith followers worldwide, two million are in India.
Are there any events/ festivals that could draw Indian visitors to Turkey?
Definitely. The most recent one was Istanbul and Ankara Shopping Festival. The Istanbul Jazz Festival is about to start and will last until July 19th. The internet is a valuable source to keep track of all the events in major cities in Turkey and we try to keep the Indian tourists informed through our website, Facebook and Twitter.
What are your growth expectations from the India market in the near future?
As I said, the yearly growth is 18 per cent and we expect a steady increase. Turkey is an exotic destination for every friend I spoke to here in India. It is a perfect mixture of what the orient and occident would have to offer and the Indian tourists are very appreciative of that.