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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid