Waheed Samy, the general manager of the Egypt-based Memphis Tours, said that the number of tourists his company sends to Turkey has been growing every day. Samy, who was attending a tourism meeting organized by East Marmara Development Agency at Sakarya, said that Turkey has vast tourism potential. “Turkey is a country that is favored not only by Egypt, but by all Arab countries. Arab countries are currently showing phenomenal interest in Turkey, as Arabs believe they have many reasons to prefer Turkey [to alternative destinations],” said Samy.
The interest of Arab tourists in Turkey has spiked after the Arab Spring, said Samy, adding, “Middle Easterners and Arabs specifically had alternatives. They could go to Lebanon and to Egypt. However, the Arab Spring diminished those countries' attractiveness as tourist destinations, and people began to turn towards Turkey more and more.”
Turkish TV Series and the Tourism Boom
Samy said that Arab tourists find everything they want in Turkey whether it be shopping, the sea, nature or culture. He noted the popularity of Turkish TV series across the Arab world. “Arab tourists are particularly interested in visiting the locations where those series were filmed,” he said.
Samy further explained the importance of popular Turkish TV series: “After dubbing the series into Arabic, Turkey’s became a more popular tourist destination. It was great idea to translate these series into Arabic. They have huge audiences. I think the TV series are the most powerful stimulus of the sharp rise in interest in Turkey. They show people the natural attractions and the lifestyle in Turkey. Viewers are mesmerized by Istanbul and by the views of the straits.”
He thinks that the TV series are responsible for a 50% increase in the number of tourists to Turkey, and claims that one series in particular — “Magnificent Century” — has played a strong role. “Everyone wants to see the Topkapi Palace, the location in which it was filmed. Another very popular series was filmed in a seaside villa on the Bosphorus strait. Everyone wants to see that place too,” he said.
But Samy said the visa system must be eliminated if Turkey really wants to bring in more tourists. “It takes a week to get a visa. Even reducing that time to two or three days will increase the number of tourists,” he said.
No Empty Seats from Bahrain to Istanbul
Muhammed Jasim, a Bahraini tour operator, said that he has been bringing tourists to Turkey for seven years, and that numbers increase every year. Jasim said that Arabs choose Turkey for their holidays because of the common religion, culture and history with their own countries. Arabs feel a connection to Turkey, Jasim said, but natural beauty also plays a part. “There are no empty seats on Bahrain-Istanbul flights,” he said.
Jasim said that Turkey, with its rich culture, history and historical sights is particularly attractive to Arab tourists. Moreover Turkey’s attitude toward the Arab Spring and the Palestinian is attractive.
Arab tourists feel safe and comfortable in Turkey, Jasim concluded.