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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More