x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Turkish delight as Arab numbers soar

Increasing numbers of Arab nationals are visiting Turkey as the country launches shopping festivals and opens up its property market to investment. 

In the first four months of the year, the number of visitors to Turkey from the UAE rose 86 per cent from the same period last year. Kerem Uzel / Bloomberg News
In the first four months of the year, the number of visitors to Turkey from the UAE rose 86 per cent from the same period last year. Kerem Uzel / Bloomberg News

Popular Turkish soap operas, shopping festivals and the chance to invest in propertyare driving a huge increase in the number of Arab tourists visiting Turkey.

In the first four months of the year, the number of visitors to Turkey from the UAE rose 86 per cent from the same period last year, according to the Turkish culture and tourism office.

Fifty-four per cent more Kuwaitis visited, while the number of Qataris visiting more than doubled.

Sedat Gönüllüoglu the Turkish tourism and culture office's attaché in the UAE, said a number of changes had sparked the influx of Arab tourists.

"We have good relationships with those countries," he said. "The shopping is popular and there's been a response to the Arab Spring. Lots of people who would have gone to Egypt, Syria and Libya have gone somewhere else."

Turkey is launching its first shopping festival in Ankara, the capital, next month and the second Istanbul Shopping Festival also opens next month.

The country hopes to attract more visitors from the Gulf seeking discounts, and those that regularly watch popular TV shows, such as Noor, which are broadcast in the Gulf.

"We have the same culture and religion, so they do not feel like strangers in Turkey. Nobody has a prejudice about them. We see the Arabs as friends," said Mr Gönüllüoglu.

Shoppers spent 8 billion Turkish lira (Dh16bn) in 40 days last year at the Istanbul Shopping Festival, and the organisers hope to achieve sales of 7bn lira this year in just 21 days. The festival hosted 5 million visitors last year and this year will run from June 9 to 29.

Rotana Hotels, Viceroy Hotel Group and Jumeirah Group have announced hotel projects in Turkey in recent months. Jumeirah said it would operate the historic Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, a property that has catered to tourists travelling on the Orient Express from Paris.

Mr Gönüllüoglu said Turkey was aiming to position Ankara as a transit point for tourists travelling to other parts of the country. "Ankara is just like Istanbul but there is no sea," he said. "Of course, Istanbul is the main place because most of the direct flights go to Istanbul."

Tourism in the country has been helped by recent changes to property laws that now allow land ownership by citizens of Gulf countries. Estate agents have reported a sharp increase in the number of Arab nationals inquiring about buying in Turkey after the changes in the law.

rjones@thenational.ae

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