TBY talks to Ertuğrul Günay, Minister of Culture & Tourism, on measures for sustainable growth and meeting targets for 2023.

Ertuğrul Günay
Previously a high ranking member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP), he joined the AK Party in 2007 and was elected Istanbul Deputy in the same year. He has served as Minister of Culture and Tourism since 2007. He has pioneered the “Humanity Initiative for Bosnia”, the “Eastern Conference”, and the “New Politics Initiative”, and is author of the books Bosnian Writings and Counter Politics.

What measures is the Ministry of Tourism taking to ensure that growth is sustainable and on track to meet the 2023 targets?

Turkey is grabbing a slice of history as a rapidly growing country and is strengthening its brand value in the world tourism market. There is no doubt that this achievement is not a coincidence. Turkey came to this point through our ministry's politics, strategies, and promotional activities. Despite the heavy global economic crisis in the past few years, Turkey has maintained consistent tourism growth. In 2011, we reached seventh place in the World Tourism Organization's ranking, showing a 10% rate of growth. In 2012, with the same consistent growth, we reached sixth place. We still have faith that in 2023, which is the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, we will achieve our goal to reach 50 million tourists and $50 billion in tourism income. We continue our work to make this target sustainable.

Which segments of Turkey's tourism and hospitality sector saw the largest investments over the past few years?

Since the 1980s, important infrastructure and superstructure investments have been made in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. By developing infrastructure opportunities, service quality, and luxurious hotels, these regions have become two of the most important sea tourism centers in the world. In accordance with our goal to spread tourism throughout the country and boost the tourism potential we have, new investments are being made. Through the Tourism Development Regions, Tourism Cities, Eco-tourism Areas, and Brand Cities programs, regions that have tourism potential are treated through an integrated approach. Our approach to tourism is integrated with incentives for private sector investments, tourism infrastructure, donations for archeological digs and research, new cultural centers, and promotions. We have begun to realize urban tourism projects in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Antalya. We also have work aimed at cultural and faith tourism, especially in Adıyaman, Amasya, Bursa, Edirne, Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Nevşehir, Gaziantep, Trabzon, Kars, Kütahya, and Konya. The purpose of this work is to increase the number of arrivals, so we improved our air transportation network and accommodation facilities in order to meet the demand.

What are the incentives for FDI in Turkey's tourism sector?

We take various economic measures to attract foreign capital to our country. Prime Minister Erdoğan has highlighted many new investment areas in Turkey. Needless to say, tourism is becoming one of our most important sectors. There is a directorate at the Ministry of Economy for foreign investment incentives, and our ministry continues to improve infrastructure and superstructure.

What steps are being taken to promote MICE tourism in Turkey?

MICE tourism is growing at 5% annually. It is a fast-growing, open-ended sector. Its most important advantages are that it can be active throughout the year, and one congress participant spends three times more money than the average tourist. MICE tourism requires long-term planning; it ensures sustainability during sudden economic crises. Meanwhile, it plays a major role in terms of contribution to the country's intellectual life and the communication between businesspeople. Turkey is a convenient MICE tourism center in terms of its geographical position, transportation capacity, new accommodation facilities, climate, and natural and historical wealth. Those travelling for congress tourism are opinion leaders in their own countries. In this sense, it contributes to the promotion of our country. We are trying to improve MICE tourism by highlighting our rich resources. In 2008, we were ranked 28th, but in 2010, we moved up to the 20th position. Istanbul hosts important annual meetings for international organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, and NATO. The International Congress and Convention Association decided to hold their 2014 congress in Antalya, and 3,500 professionals are expected to attend. The general congresses for travel association ABTA and textile organization ITAA will take place in Antalya in 2012, and ANRV's general congress is set to take place in Istanbul. The World Botanic Expo 2016 is also set to be held in Antalya, and the UEFA Congress 2012 took place in Istanbul.

Istanbul was selected as the 2010 European Capital of Culture and is the European Capital of Sport in 2012. What is the significance of holding these titles?

Istanbul has hosted many important organizations and has become the European Capital of Sport in 2012. We have made all the necessary preparations and promotion in cooperation with the European Capital of Culture Agency. These international titles strengthen our present brand position and foster international cooperation and communication channels.