In 2016, China confidently declared 2018 to be the year of Chinese tourism in Turkey. This massive endorsement is just one of many tourism, business and trade projects representing a growing friendship between the two nations.
For Turkey, it isn’t a pleasant surprise but instead, a detailed and calculated economic plan belonging to their 2023 Turkey Vision Project. Diversification is the key theme running through their goals for the Turkish tourist industry, and after only hosting western nations for many decades, Turkey is now looking towards Asia, Africa and Middle Eastern countries.
One reason is to prevent a dip in tourism income, the likes of which were seen after a spat with Russia resulted in a massive drop of visitors to the country. By diversifying the nationalities of tourists visiting Turkey, it ensures tourism still carries on despite any global or political fallouts. However, the Chinese market is crucial to Turkey for other reasons.
Why Does Turkey Want More Chinese Tourists?
China’s growing population makes it the number one tourism market across the globe. On average, 120 million Chinese people travel abroad every year. However, while European nationalities love beach holidays and lounging poolside, Chinese tourists want cultural experiences whether it be shopping, history, adventure sports or health.
In turn, they spend a lot more money than the average beach tourist. So, if Turkey can become the favourite destination for Chinese tourists, the boost to the economy will be huge.
Chinadocia Destination Project
Historically, Chinese tourists have always loved the central Anatolian region of Cappadocia. Its underground cities, fairy chimney rocks and ancient cave churches portray a surreal destination, especially if people book into an authentic cave hotel.
Looking to capitalise on this already fruitful popularity, tourism officials in Cappadocia have launched the Chinadocia Destination Project. A series of activities and events such as photo exhibitions aim to increase friendships and make sure Chinese tourists in Cappadocia have the best time possible.
They will then go back home and tell their friends and family, therefore boosting advertising through word of mouth recommendations. The project started on February the 16th, the same date as the Chinese New Year.
Pamukkale and Other Destinations
Experts say 95% of Chinese tourists also visit Pamukkale pools in the Denizli region of Turkey. Nicknamed the Cotton Castle, along with the nearby ruins of Hierapolis city, they belong to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Their dramatic appearance tumbling down a hillside doesn’t need advertising, and if Turkey can make it easier for Chinese tourists to get there, they will go in droves.
Naturally, they also visit the old city part of Istanbul, known as Sultanahmet that is home to iconic landmark buildings such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. They also uniquely prefer Amasya and Safranbolu, two areas rarely visited by western package holiday tourists.
The most striking difference between Chinese tourists and other nationalities is that if the price is right, they prefer guided tours with transport, and hotels pre-arranged, and this is a big boost for local travel agents in Turkey.
One Belt One Road Project in Bodrum
An important project of this century is China’s attempts to revive the old silk road, and Turkey has joined them in their quest named the “One Belt One Road” project. Such a revival will boost trade by improving transport times and also tourism, of which the Bodrum region is looking to cash in on.
One of the peninsula’s most prominent construction companies, Agaoglu signed an intent letter with Chinese investors to build a Europe’s largest tourism city covering 12 million square meters, and everyone is eagerly awaiting further details of the project.
Hurdles to Overcome
Current stats say 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey in 2017. By 2020, Turkey wants to host 1 million Chinese tourists every year. However, two problems need to be overcome.
Flight schedules and frequencies to cope with high demand are surprisingly low, but plans are in place, especially for Turkish Airlines to step up and take the market share. They already fly to Istanbul from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. China has also given flight permits to Onur Air Airline that will operate from Changchun, four times a week.
Chinese people also like round-the-country trips visiting more than several destinations within a week. By law, a qualified, licensed guide must lead these trips. While many speak second languages such as English, German and Russian, few know Chinese, so Turkey is equipping guides with ample resources and incentives to learn the language, hence ensuring Chinese tourists get the best possible service.
It is full steam ahead with promotion of Turkey in China including trade fairs, television adverts, magazine features and training for travel agents from both countries. But will all this demanding work pay off?
Will the Chinese year of tourism in Turkey boost visitor stats and in turn, the Turkish economy?
We can only wait and see but follow Turkey Homes on Facebook to stay up to date with tourism and business news.