Beyond any doubt, Tourism is a vital sector for Turkey. It is particularly important in terms of ensuring economic balances, closing the current deficit, increasing foreign exchange inflows. This is why it is necessary to invest in tourism and the sector also must be supported. In addition, it is necessary to go beyond the sea-sand-sun trio and to bring the alternative tourism areas to the foreground.
Turkey, where natural beauties are unique, is also at a level in the historical wealth that can make other countries jealous. In every year, millions of tourists see and live these beauties by visiting our country. Billions of dollars in economic movement occurs. However, better can be possible. Visiting of more tourists and obtaining more revenue depend on some steps to be taken. In fact, both the government and sector representatives are aware of this. There are some initiatives to be made. TÜRSAB is one of these significant actors taking the steps.
As Harmoni, we have focused on the tourism this month. We talked to sector representatives, evaluated the last year and handled what should be done in the coming next period.
We asked the opinions of Başaran Ulusoy, the doyen of the tourism sector. President of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), Başaran Ulusoy, made some points about the year 2016, expressed his predictions for this year and in general mentioned about the steps that should be taken for the development of the sector. We now turn it over to him.
Mr. Başaran, could you please information about you?
I was born in 1949, in Trabzon. After completing primary, secondary and high school in Trabzon, I graduated from Istanbul Academy of Economic and Commercial Sciences in 1970. In 1968 I took up business life. I was active in the sectors of construction, contractorship services, carrying trade, transportation, insurance and tourism. At the age of 21, my grand uncle proposed me to take our elders of the Ulusoy family for a total of 39 days to the pilgrimage by land. I accepted and this experience made it possible for me to step into the travel tourism area. In 1981, I served as a member of TÜRSAB Board of Directors and a member of accounting. During 1991-1993 I came to the position of Board of TÜRSAB Chairman. After 3 periods, I became president again in 1999. I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the TEMA Foundation and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Turkish Turing and Automobile Association. I am currently serving as the Advisory Board of the Turkey Environment Education Foundation, DEIK Executive Committee Member and Chairman of TOBB Tourism Sector Assembly, UKTAŞ (International Congress Palace Facilities Management), Efes Congress Center-Kuşadası and TÜRSAB.
What are your activities for the tourism sector as TÜRSAB?
Although TÜRSAB is essentially an occupational organization, TÜRSAB shows efforts for the development of the country’s tourism. By attending international tourism fairs and it presents the tourism potential of Turkey in foreign countries. We are trying to attract the attention of international tourism community to Turkey by the Travel Turkey International Tourism Fair that we organize. In addition to presenting the cultural and touristic values of our country with the workshop events we have carried out abroad, we are also performing activities that will enable the development and diversification of Turkish tourism in different fields such as congress, health, sports, culture and cruise tourism.
We are carrying out many studies in order to improve tourism with regard to foreign markets as well as to develop tourism in the inner market. In this context, we have been organizing an "Early Booking Campaign" with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, TÜROB, and TÜROFED since the year 2009 in order to enable local tourists to benefit from low-prices holiday facilities. By this campaign, we provide an opportunity for our citizens to have vacation in affordable ways in case of early reservations.
As TÜRSAB, another consideration that we place too much stress on is protecting our cultural heritage and transferring it to future generations. In this context, we are carrying out many activities such as illuminating the ancient city of Ephesus, restoration of Diyarbakir Ziya Gokalp Museum which is located in Sur province of Diyarbakir and cannot be used by burning during social events in 2014.
Our efforts on the way of tourism diversification, conservation of Turkey’s cultural heritage and presenting it in the world arena will also be continued.
Could you give a numerical information about the tourism sector?
In 2016, the tourism sector went through a very hard period. Many undesirable events such as the aircraft crisis with Russia, the refugee problem, the geopolitical strides around the country, the increasing terrorist events across the globe and the betrayer coup attempt took place on 15th of July have negatively affected the tourism industry. According to the T. R. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, by the year 2016, the number of foreign visitors coming to our country decreased by 30.05 percent compared to the year 2015 and reached to 25 million 352 thousand and 213 visitors. In 2016, again the tourism revenue decreased by 29.74 percent and reached to 22 billion 107 million 440 thousand dollars. As a result, we have ended the year 2016 in a negative way by the impacts of experienced events. In summary, it was a year in which all the negative events that may be experienced came together in 2016 and it was a year that there was a significant decline in almost all of the source markets that send tourists to Turkey.
By looking at the first two months period of the year 2017, we observe that the downward trend continues. In accordance with the data gathered from the T. R. Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in the period of January-February months of the year 2017, the number of foreign visitors coming to Turkey decreased by 8.12 percent compared to the same period of the previous year and decreased to 2 million 215 thousand and 307.
A positive development that we can see in this period is the serious rate of increase in the number of tourists coming from the countries like Russia, which is the second biggest market of our country in particular, Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Ukraine and S. Arabia.
However, neither the decline we were faced in the number of general visitors in January-February months nor the increase we have experienced in the markets such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran allow us to make predictions about the whole of the year 2017. Because the dynamics of each market is different. More time is needed for our 2017 forecast to be apparent. The decline in the factors that cause the year 2016 to pass in a negative way and the fact that the new negative events do not occur will contribute positively for the increase in the number of tourists and tourism revenues in the next coming periods for sure.
How is the share of local firms in total in consideration with the package tours coming to Turkey?
Although there are tour operators that make operations from the countries of Russia and BDT- CAC (Commonwealth of Independent States) in which the Turks are among the partners, a major part of the companies that bring tourists to our country from abroad by package tours constitute foreign originated tour operators, established and located abroad. In addition to this, these companies as a whole, were established within the framework of the Law No. 1618 and gather incoming services from travel agencies which are members of TÜRSAB.
What kind of a relationship is there between the package tours and individual visits in entrances to Turkey and exits from Turkey?
While Turkey become prominent as a tourism destination that develops in the field of mass tourism on the base of sea-sand-sun tourism within the years, Turkey has also become a significant destination for individual visitors under the favor of increasing airway connection facilities, center of that are based in Istanbul. Although we do not have a certain statistical data about the incoming visitors coming by package tours or by individual efforts, we can state that the fraction from 40%-50% of the visitors coming to our country came by package tours.
In consideration with the local identities and potentials of Turkey, is it possible to create different proposals and routes for different types of tourism (Culture tourism route, traditional tourism route, sports tourism route etc.)
Turkey is in a position that it is one of the most important tourism destinations in the world in terms of both the number of visitors it receives and the revenue it earns from these guests. There is no doubt that the mass tourism has a very important role in achievement of this Turkey's success. A substantial part of the coming to our country make their visits during summer months for tourist purposes. However, this situation has unfortunately directed the tourism sector to the point of being a seasonal activity. What we need to do is to increase the number of alternative tourism types that will diversify tourism by not interfering with the studies in the field of mass tourism and transform it to an economic activity which will spread in 12 months.
As a matter of fact, in recent years important studies have started to be carried out in order to achieve the development of different tourism segments. As TÜRSAB, we have established special committees for the development of Health Tourism, Gastronomy Tourism, Adventure Tourism, Congress Tourism, Sports Tourism, and Health Tourism and have carried out many activities in these committees. For sure, in consideration with the gastronomic, cultural and natural beauties of Turkey, there is a great potential for development