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November 10, 2008

While the global financial crisis and the rise of the value of the dollar are taking their toll on the non-financial economy, tourism — one of the cornerstones of the Turkish economy — had a productive season in 2008, attracting 21.5 million tourists in the first nine months of the year — a 13.3 percent increase over the same period of the previous year — according to data from the Security Directorate.

The directorate reported that the largest number of visitors to Turkey came from Germany, with 16 percent of the total between January and September. The Russian Federation and the United Kingdom followed Germany’s lead.

The report also described that the Mediterranean province of Antalya was the most popular destination in Turkey, receiving a 35 percent share of the foreign visitors who came to Turkey during the first nine months of 2008. İstanbul, Turkey’s largest city, took second place with 25 percent.

Beach resorts — destinations for sun and sea — continued to be attractive to tourists, explaining why Antalya is considered the tourism capital of country. Even though Antalya took the first spot with its improved tourism infrastructure; İstanbul is still a “one-of-a-kind” place in the hearts of visitors. With its unique location and history, İstanbul has positioned itself as an important center of culture and art, leading the city to be chosen as a European Capital of Culture for 2010. In that year, İstanbul lovers hope the number of visitors to the old city will surpass those traveling to Antalya.

Data show that Turkey has become a top 10 destination country in the world for foreign visitors with the growing number of tourists visiting each year. The number increased substantially between 2002 and 2005, from 12.8 million to a record 21.2 million. If the ongoing global crisis turns out to Turkey’s advantage, its tourism industry can continue to be among the top 10 biggest in terms of revenue. By adopting a new strategy and new approaches to tourism, Turkey aims to become a world brand in tourism and a major destination among the top five countries receiving the highest tourism revenue by 2023.

Turkey has the potential to be a center not just for sea and sun tourism but also for alternative types of tourism such as thermal, coastal, health and winter tourism, as well as a site for mountain climbing and adventure trips. Promoting all of these options is part of Tur  key’s tourism strategy for 2023 — a year that coincides with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the republic.

The government has put special emphasis on developing existing transportation systems and intends to solve transportation and infrastructural problems, especially in the fastest growing tourism centers. By diversifying the types of tourism Turkey is known for and by eliminating possible problems, Turkey hopes to increase its list of cities that attract vacationers and travelers. Turkish officials believe tourism can experience a boost in this crisis atmosphere rather than being negatively affected by it.

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