News / Europe

Turkey Taps Arab World For Tourist Dollars

The Ottoman-era Topkapi Palace, foreground, one of landmarks of Turkey's largest city and the country's cultural and economic capital, Istanbul (file photo)
The Ottoman-era Topkapi Palace, foreground, one of landmarks of Turkey's largest city and the country's cultural and economic capital, Istanbul (file photo)
Dorian Jones

Hard economic times in Europe is hitting the tourist industry in Turkey. But the country is enjoying a rather surprising dividend in the growing popularity of its prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan across the Middle East. It is proving an increasingly popular destination for Arab tourists.

When he arrived in Cairo last month, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the sort of welcome usually reserved for rockstars.

Thousands of cheering Egyptians turned out to see Mr. Erdogan who has strongly supported the Arab Spring uprising and waged a diplomatic war against Israel.

And, as a result of his popularity in Middle Eastern countries, Arab tourists are now choosing to visit Turkey.

Here in Istanbul on the city's main street, Istiklal cad, throngs of Arab tourists are now a common sight. Its predicted nearly 2 million Arab tourists will visit Turkey this year, nearly double last year's number.

For many, like Ahmet from Kuwait, the almost cult status of Mr. Erdogan was a reason why he chose to spend his vacation in Istanbul.

"Erdogan , nice guy," said Ahmet. "You know there is a relation between all Muslims. Because I heard about Erdogan I came here, nice country. Before I go U.K. and U.S., Malaysia."

Shops are adapting fast to this new trend. In this shopping mall, signs in Arabic have appeared everywhere next to the customary English one.

And that's not surprising. Arab tourists, many of whom are from oil rich countries, have a reputation for having much deeper pockets than many of their cash-strapped European counterparts.

That means a major boost to the economy, according chief economist Emre Yigit from the financial trading house Global Securities.

"If you go out on the streets in Istanbul, one can very safely say one has never seen as many Arab tourists in Turkey, and we know that overall number of tourists is also increasing rapidly in 2011," said  Yigit. "So it looks like its going to be a bumper year for tourism. And there is circumstantial evidence that the Arab tourists are relatively good spenders as well. So they are supporting the economy it appears."

Turkey is cashing in on its growing prestige, aggressively targeting Middle Eastern tourists.

And, Arab tourism is more than a welcome boost for many of Istanbul's hotels.

At the CVK hotel in central Istanbul, Manager Edip Celick says Arab tourists are now the main  source of customers.

"European Union for crisis, no came from Greece no came from Spanish,
Celick. "But all hotel 60 or 70 percent Arabic people stay in hotel. And the for Arabic people like the shopping mall and their first question [is] 'Where is the shopping mall?'"

But its not only shopping and Turkey's growing regional prestige that attracts tourists. It's also Turkish television soaps that air in several Arab countries.

The highly produced programs, many with their comparatively risque story lines, by conservative Arab standards, are proving so popular that many Arabs come to visit the film locations.

Aydar Sengec is guiding around the latest group of Arab tourists to visit one of Istanbul's mansions on the shoreline of the Bosphorus waterway. The building features in one of the biggest Turkish TV hits in the Middle East. Sengec says they are overwhelmed by the interest shown by Arabs.

"The visitors come from Saudi Arabia," said Sengec. "All these people come from the Middle East also north Africa, from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. There are 3,000 people who came in two months. Especially woman. They like the characters. They like the story. Because the story is familiar, the same family relations."

One of those visiting is Kuwaiti Asla. She says they just can't get enough of Turkish soaps and the lifestyle they portray.

"We all love the actors the artists," said Asla. "The Arab love too much this drama. You see the streets , nobody, no cars, all the house, all see the TV."

Analysts are predicting difficult economic times for Europe for some time to come. But Istanbul and the rest of the country are now hoping there will be further opportunities to exploit the deep pool of goodwill that observers say exist towards Turkey across the Arab world.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs