Capitalising on Diversity

Exclusive Interview: Numan Kurtulmuş– Minister of Culture and Tourism – Republic of Turkey

With 32.41 million visitors in 2017, Turkey experienced a jump in tourist arrivals of over 28% after two difficult years as highlighted in an exclusive interview with ITB Berlin News, by Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Numan Kurtulmuş. As 2017 was the year of recovery for Turkish tourism, we asked the minister what his expectations are for 2018.


Our tourism faced two difficult years, due to political instability and violent events, but this time is now behind us. I am glad that our industry is growing again. Tourism is a soft power that helps to bring people together and we truly believe that travel will continue to grow. We predict that this year, we could record 38-million international arrivals generating US$30bn in tourism revenues.

How did European markets perform? Do you see potential in new European countries?
Europe is a very important partner for Turkey. Europe is our fourth largest export market and our fifth largest import market. With 13.8 million arrivals – excluding CIS countries – Europe last year generated over 40% of all arrivals to our country. I am confident that Europeans will be back in larger numbers as we continue to be a perfect destination for holidaymakers looking for culture, ethnic diversity, beautiful beaches, excellent gastronomy and a good value for money. In recent years, we have witnessed a surge in arrivals from Central/Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria or Poland. I personally believe that Switzerland has excellent potential to grow more.

How would you define Turkey’s tourism assets today?
Our geographical position makes us a natural gateway as we are just sitting between Asia and Europe and as we are also close to Africa. Then there is our culture with its incredible variety, shaped by elements from Ancient Greece, the Ottoman Empire and Islamic cultures. This variety of cultures is reflected also in our religions, ethnics. We have an unmatched diversity of landscapes, a superb gastronomy and finally, we have our people with their true sense of hospitality.

Are you looking at Asia as a potential market?
Asia still represents a very tiny portion of our total arrivals. But its potential is enormous, with China and India poised to grow doubledigit due to the surge in their middle-class. We also capitalise on Haj pilgrims to Makah from Indonesia and Malaysia. Turkey is an excellent destination to spend a few days before or after their Haj.

Do you want to promote new destinations within Turkey?
Our new focus is to put in highlight a new destination every year. We started this year with Troja as it is an iconic site with its strong historical background. We are already looking at another destination for 2019 as it helps to promote alternative destinations worldwide.

The last couple of years have seen Turkish tourism getting through turbulent times. From a peak of 42 million foreign travellers in 2014, tourism declined to 36.24 million arrivals in 2015 to reach a low of 25.35 million arrivals in 2016. But 2017 marked a U-turn with arrivals growing again by 28% at 32.41 million. There is however a major shift in the top markets to the country. Russia is now Turkey’s largest inbound market with 4.71 million arrivals (+444%), taking over Germany, Turkey’s traditional number one inbound market.
German arrivals last year reached 3.58 million, a decline of 7.8% over 2016. However, Turkey’s neighbours grew strongly, with Iran now being Turkey’s third largest source market (2.5 million arrivals, up 50%), followed by Georgia (2.44 million arrivals, up 10.5%) and Bulgaria (1.85 million, up 9.5%). The UK remained the sixth largest source market with total arrivals reaching 1.66 million last year, down by 3.1%.
In Asia, China was the largest source market with 247,000 travellers, followed by India with 87,000 (up 9.7%) and Indonesia with 85,000 arrivals (up 80%).

Photo: Numan Kurtulmuş – Minister of Culture and Tourism Republic of Turkey