Turkey aims to attract 8 million more tourists in the first stage of a campaign to boost the nation’s tourism earnings to $50 billion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.
"I believe that we can increase our short-term national income [from tourism] to $50 billion and increase it further to $86 billion by 2023," the nation’s centennial, Erdogan said after meeting with representatives of leading Turkish tourism companies at the presidential palace.
By using the Turkish tourism sector's quality of service, product range, cultural and historical wealth, and human resources, Erdogan said, Turkey aims to become one of the world's top three tourism destinations.
Turkey is currently the world’s number six tourist destination, attracting more than 30 million tourists annually and continuing to show positive growth year-on-year, according to Turkey’s Investment Support and Promotion Agency.
Aiming to reach the top three, Turkey Thursday kicked off a new campaign called "Bring your neighbor and come", encouraging Turkish citizens living abroad to spend their holidays in Turkey as well as bring their foreign neighbors with them on holiday.
According to Erdogan, there are currently 5 million Turkish-origin individuals living abroad, most of them in European countries such as Germany, France, Belgium, and Britain.
Moreover, there are also 3.5 million Turkish-origin individuals who once lived abroad and returned to Turkey but still maintain ties with the countries they once lived in, Erdogan added.
"We consider all our citizens living abroad as our voluntary tourism ambassadors. So I invite our citizens living abroad to spend at least one week of their holidays in Turkey [at tourist destinations] in addition to visiting to their families,” Erdogan said.
"I also ask them to bring their neighbors and friends with them for holidays to Turkey. In that vein, we’re launching the 'Bring your neighbor and come' campaign."
Saying that Turkey is home to a wealth of natural beauty with gorgeous mountains, winding rivers, as well as historical beauties and a rich cuisine, Erdogan said that people who choose to holiday in Turkey can experience Turkish hospitality firsthand and meet the "real" Turkey.
Celebrations at home
As part of the campaign, Erdogan also invited Turkish citizens living abroad to hold special events such as engagements or weddings in Turkey rather than in the countries they live in.
"Every year more than 50,000 wedding events of our citizens living abroad take place in the countries where they live," he said.
"My brothers living in Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and other countries, let's be sensible and celebrate all the special events in our country."
The campaign also urges foreigners working in Turkey to spend at least one week of their holidays in Turkey.
Saying that there are some 50,000 companies funded by foreign capital in Turkey, Erdogan called on foreigners living and working in Turkey to seize the opportunity and "learn about the real Turkey" by spending at least one week of their holidays in Turkey.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry “along with our tourism companies are providing attractive new opportunities for these foreigners. We also invite these companies' employees living abroad to come and spend their holidays in Turkey," he said.
According to Erdogan, over the last 14 years, under Justice and Development (AK) Party rule, the number of tourists visiting Turkey rose from some 13 million to 40 million. Over the same period national earnings from tourism more than doubled from $12.5 billion to $31.5 billion, he added.
Despite smear campaigns claiming that Turkey is no longer a safe place for tourists or investments, Invest in Turkey figures say the growth of Turkey’s tourism industry in recent years has beaten the global average.
Its latest statistics say that the industry’s direct contribution to the current account deficit in 2015 was 80 percent, while its contributions to GDP the same year reached 4.37 percent.