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Cablegate: Turks Anticipate Banner Tourism Year

VZCZCXRO8841
PP RUEHDA
DE RUEHAK #0622/01 0781029
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191029Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1371
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 2349
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 1759

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000622

SIPDIS


SENSITVE
SIPDIS

Treasury for International Affairs - JRose

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON TU
SUBJECT: TURKS ANTICIPATE BANNER TOURISM YEAR

REF: (A) Ankara 4953 (B) Ankara 4493 (C) Ankara 1105
(D) Ankara 1460


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On the heels of dashed
expectations for tourism in 2006, Turkish officials
expressed confidence that tourist arrivals for 2007
would surpass the record 21.1 million set in 2005. To
attract more tourists from North and South America, the
Government of Turkey (GOT) has invested millions in a
multi-media campaign touting religious and health
tourism. Convinced that Turkey has moved beyond the
negative images affecting tourism in 2006, notably the
wave of bombings in tourist areas of western Turkey,
Turkish officials expect over 600,000 Americans to
visit this year. End Summary.

------------------------
SO FAR, SO GOOD FOR 2007
------------------------

2. (SBU) Despite a 6.5% decline in tourist arrivals in
2006, Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOT) contacts
voiced optimism over the prospects for 2007.
Predicting a record-setting year, MOT Director General
for Marketing Ozgur Ozaslan estimated Turkey would
welcome more than 21 million visitors in 2007, besting
the 21.1 million who visited in 2005, and easily
exceeding the 19.8 million arrivals of 2006. Ozaslan
pointed to a combined 16% increase in arrivals for
January and February, compared to the preceding year
for the same period, as evidence of the upward trend.

3. (SBU) At first dismissive of the possibility of a
repeat wave of PKK terrorist bombings like the ones
that struck the tourist towns of Marmaris and Cesme in
2006, Ozaslan later acknowledged last year's attacks
seemed specifically designed to maximize damage to the
tourism sector by striking tourist areas during the
summer/fall high season, adding that "terrorism can
strike anywhere at anytime." According to Ozaslan, the
MOT estimates that approximately one million tourists
stayed away from Turkey from September to December 2006
due to the bombings. The "Kurdistan Freedom Falcons"
(TAK), the name under which the PKK conducts its
attacks in western Turkey, has recently issued another
warning to foreign tourists to stay away. If so, the
increase in tourist arrivals could be jeopardized.

-----------------------------------------
MESSAGE TO AMERICANS: TURKEY WELCOMES YOU
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The MOT recently launched a $5.6 million
marketing campaign targeting tourists from North and
South America. "Turkey Welcomes You" is the title of
the 45-page colorful guide highlighting the country's
2,000 thermal springs, natural alternative medicine
centers, historic churches and synagogues, and numerous
archeological sites. Although tourists from the
Americas represent only five percent of total visitors
to Turkey, Ozaslan confirmed they outspend their
European counterparts, stay longer in country, and
generally opt for culture tourism over cheaper packaged
"sun tours" popular with many Europeans. Ozaslan
played for us two television commercials produced for
American audiences that will air on CNN and network
television during high profile regular programming such
as "House," "Desperate Housewives," and "Lost," and
displayed various print ads set to appear in The New
York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and
over thirty travel and lifestyle magazines.

5. (SBU) Ozaslan noted that before the events of 9/11,
more than 515,000 Americans vacationed in Turkey
annually. Encouraged by the 22% increase in American
tourists who visited in 2006, the MOT expects over
600,000 Americans to visit Turkey this year. The debut
of the temporary Turkish village at Disneyworld's
Epcott Center in late 2006 proved enormously
successful. Unable to provide exact numbers for the 3-
month run at Epcott, MOT officials estimated roughly
30,000 thousand people a day passed through the exhibit
which featured Turkish foods and products and displayed
cultural highlights of Istanbul and Cappadocia.
Describing as "cost-prohibitive" the apparent 20
million USD price tag for maintaining a permanent spot

ANKARA 00000622 002 OF 002


at Epcott, MOT officials nevertheless look forward to
sponsoring a 3-month exhibit again this year.

-------------------
YEAR OF THE MEVLANA
-------------------

6. (SBU) In coordination with the three Turkish Culture
and Tourism Offices operating in the United States
(Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles), the MOT
plans to sponsor a number of cultural events in major
US cities in 2007, including Chicago, San Francisco,
and Miami, to celebrate UNESCO's "Year of the Mevlana,"
in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the birth
of Mevlana Jelaladdin Rumi, the 13th century Turkish
philosopher and mystical poet of Islam. MOT officials
acknowledged contract negotiations were underway for
Dr. Deepak Chopra, a former figure in the
Transcendental Meditation Movement, to produce a 90-
minute documentary film about Rumi, possible narrators
include Hollywood celebrities Demi Moore and Antonio
Banderas.

---------------------
2023 Tourism Strategy
---------------------

7. (SBU) Unveiled recently at a Turkish tourism summit
in the resort city of Antalya, the MOT's "2023 Tourism
Strategy," is a 52-page roadmap to development of niche
tourism (religious, health, and golf), infrastructure
improvements, and regional "tourism cities." A Tourism
Ministry official responsible for city and regional
planning saw major potential in the development of golf
tourism. He said the island of Majorca has more golf
courses than all of Turkey, despite Turkey's natural
attributes for golf tourism (long season, tourist
infrastructure). He also lamented that Majorca has
more yacht marinas than all of Turkey, despite Turkey's
long coastline. Turkish tourism officials also hope to
develop more religious tourism, capitalizing on the
Pope's recent visit and the abundance of important
sites for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

8. (SBU) Although the Council of Ministers signed off
on the "2023 Tourism Strategy," MOT's Deputy General
for Business and Development Savas Bozdu confirmed that
there is currently no budget for implementing any of
the short-term or long-term strategies identified in
the plan. Tourism revenues constitute approximately
five percent of GNP, are an important source of new
employment, and also help finance Turkey's large trade
deficit. Speaking at the summit, however, Prime
Minister Erdogan emphasized the importance of viewing
tourism in political and cultural terms, not just as a
source of revenue for Turkey, noting "tourism brings
the people of the world together and contributes to
world peace."

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) The substantial increase in tourist arrivals
at the outset of 2007 is encouraging given the
disappointing overall numbers for last year. Although
confident 2007 will be a record-setting year for
tourism, MOT officials' projections are based on
certain assumptions, mainly the absence of any PKK
attacks targeting tourist areas and the lack of
controversy surrounding Turkey's upcoming presidential
and parliamentary elections. The GOT's decision to
increase by $4 million USD the marketing budget for the
Americas demonstrates a genuine commitment to attract
more Americans tourists.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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