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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs