PRECIOUS JEWEL

Turkey 2013 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ömer Çelik, Minister of Culture & Tourism, on reaching goals set for the sector and balancing growth with the protection of tourism resources.

Ömer Çelik
BIOGRAPHY
Ömer Çelik graduated from Gazi University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences in the Department of Public Administration. He also has a Master’s degree in Political Science from the Institute of Social Sciences. He has been a member of the AK Party’s Central Decision-making Committee (MKYK) since its creation and also became Vice-Minister responsible for External Relations of the same organization in March 2010. After a cabinet reshuffle, he became the Minister of Culture and Tourism on January 24, 2013.

How would you characterize Turkey's progress toward reaching its Vision 2023 goal of 50 million arrivals in Turkey?

With the development that Turkey has undergone in the last 10 years, our country has become one of the stars of international tourism. This isn't just good news for us at the Ministry—it is also something that motivates and inspires the entire sector. The biggest goal in our 2023 Tourism Strategy is to reach 50 million visitors and attain tourism revenues of $50 billion a year. The requisite potential and infrastructure is already in place for us to realize that objective. As long as we use this potential well, I believe there will be no obstacles in our path. However, I believe that we don't even need to aim for 2023, and we can reach these figures even sooner. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is a civil ministry that has intimate ties with investors, representatives, and businesses throughout the sector. If we maintain these strong ties, we can reach our goals sooner. Our united aim is to improve and exalt our country's image in the fields of culture and tourism.

What steps are you taking to promote a wider variety of tourism?

Tourism is one of the world's dominant economic sectors. Because we live in a place with a rich history, geography, and culture, we are one of the principal countries in this sector. Our rapid rise in the tourism sector has focused a lot of attention on our country. This isn't just true of the tourism field, but also in politics, economics, and foreign policy. Considering the international arena, there's an ongoing economic and political shift on the world stage. Within this shift, Turkey is becoming a source of inspiration for other countries. As things are, it's not enough to simply develop our tourism industry and renew and reorganize our strategies. That's why I've stated that what we have to do is protect our well-earned accomplishments and reinvent tourism. In this way, I believe that we will create a chain reaction of rapid development in tourism, the economy, foreign policy, education, and health. This interconnected development will also help create a more diversified tourism sector.

How would you characterize the significance of tourism revenues for Turkey's economy?

Tourism revenue is a very important issue for countries that have realized the value of the sector. As you know, tourism isn't just sun, sand, and sea. It's something that incorporates all aspects of a society, a sector in which the smallest stone or even a single individual can contribute added value. This inclusiveness also makes tourism indispensable for our economy. Tourism is a valuable source of hard currency. We are working hard to develop and diversify the sector with this in mind. Today, new methods are employed in the calculation of tourism revenue. We now have results that are more comprehensive and real. Tourism has advanced beyond being just a means for increasing our national income or improving economic standards; it's now become a strategic sector for our future.

“Our rapid rise in the tourism sector has focused a lot of attention on our country."

What steps is Turkey taking to balance economic growth with the protection of its resources?

Turkey is full of cultural, historical, and natural riches, and our aim is to protect and pass these treasures down as a national inheritance for future generations. We don't want to think of cultural tourism as merely a consumer sector. To think of cultural tourism as a consumer good would be detrimental to our efforts to foster the identity of us being a nation of culture and would also be detrimental to the inherent dynamics of the tourism sector overall. The promotion of our culture has a major impact on our tourism sector. The human diplomacy that tourism also encapsulates strengthens our standing as a cultural state. Our main aim is to strengthen and expand our image internationally. By attaching the necessary importance and value to our culture, which arouses admiration throughout the world, we will increase its share in the development of the sector and, as a result, our overall economy. We are also working to attract producers to our country through such policies as refunding VAT, for example.