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Overview of Turkey’s Tourism Potentials and Management

Updated on May 2, 2020
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The writer has a Master's Degree in Economics. She enjoys researching and writing about economic and business issues.

I. Introduction

In the past several decades, tourism has become one of the biggest and fastest growing economic sectors, generating a total global revenue of more than USD 5.3 trillion, accounting for nearly 7% of global GDP (Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2019). Located in both Europe and Asia, with an area of approximately 783-thousand squared kilometers, Turkey has been one of the most popular tourism destinations for people in Europe and around the world. In 2018, the country welcomed 46 million visitors, up more than 21 percent compared to the previous year, generating a revenue of USD 29.5 billion, an increase of nearly 12.5% (AFP, 2019). As the country has identifies tourism as one of the key economic sectors of the country, this essay plans to outline a destination management plan for Turkey, specifying the importance of the country’s destination management organizations, its tourism products, visitors’ characteristics and competitors.

Amazing Istanbul, Turkey
Amazing Istanbul, Turkey | Source

II. The importance of destination management organizations

Destination management organizations take the initiatives to lead and coordinate all stakeholders in the tourism industry in a location to synchronize all aspects of destination development including researching destination’s tangible and intangible products, services delivery, marketing, and sustainability (Morrison, 2014). In the past, destination management organizations are often government agency; however, now, they are often in the form of public – private – partnership to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Destination management organizations play several key roles in a location. First, they develop an overall development strategy for sustainable tourism development of a location. In order to do so, the organizations need to learn about the needs of all relevant players in the field through communication and discussion. In Turkey, there are currently several organizations in charge of tourism development and management including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, National Tourism Council (with subordinates in the state and city levels), National Tourism Service, and so on. In addition, they can also conduct secondary research to gather all information about a location in terms of its products, competitions, partnerships, development orientations, and strategies (Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2007).

Second, destination management organizations develop an overall tourism marketing and branding strategy for a location. Branding refers to the establishment and communication of a location’s characteristics, values and other attributes to potential customers, exciting them to visit a place and differentiating one location to another (Fyall, et al., 2019). Additionally, a brand should be unique, intriguing and help to strengthen the positive image and experience that visitors have before and after visiting a place. For example, for Turkey, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism sets the brand for the country as an acceptable and affordable place to visit with an appeal to both domestic and international tourists. After consolidating the strategy for branding, a marketing strategy will follow, outlining timeline, budget, medium and implementation of the marketing campaign. Depending on the target markets and value positioning, different marketing channels can be utilized, both online channels such as through social medias, email marketing, ads, and offline media such newspapers, words of mouth, etc. Following the global trend of digitization, in recent years, Turkish destination management organizations have also tried to utilize more and more digital platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine, featuring viral videos and images. Moreover, online advertising and booking channels such as Google Ads, TripAdvisor, Agoda are also employed (OECD, 2016).

Third, destination management organizations need to constantly monitor and evaluate the performance of location’s tourism industry to coordinate and supervise the implementation of different stakeholders, provide feedback and make changes to the plan if necessary (Klimek, 2013). In order to do so, they first need to develop S.M.A.R.T goals, meaning specific (emphasizing some detailed targets), measurable (having quantifiable metrics or criteria), achievable (being able to accomplish with the available resources), relevant (relating to and supporting the desired results), and timely (within certain time period, both short-term and long-term) (Schermerhorn, 2012). For example, Turkey can boost the number of international tourist arrivals by 20 percent by diversifying its tourism products in 5 years. Furthermore, the destination management organization can advocate and propose tourism policies, regulations and practice to the relevant authorities to reinforce the tourism legal framework and recommend investment incentives.

Finally, destination management organizations can participate in orienting and developing tourism products to suit with the tourism development needs at various stages. Similar to other products, tourism products also follow the product life cycle, starting with exploration of new products, growth, maturity and then decline (Bolaky, 2008). Hence, destination management organizations must analyze the current stage of all tourism products and decide the product mix to achieve the optimal industry revenue.

Role of destination management organization
Role of destination management organization

III. Turkey’s tourism product audit

Different from many countries, Turkey’s tourism industry relies heavily on foreign visitors (Koc, 2005). According to the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in 2018, foreign visitors accounted for above 85% of the total visitors in Turkey. Among international arrivals, the biggest source country was Russian Federation with nearly 6 million visitors, making up 15% of total visitors, followed by Germany (11.4%), Bulgaria (6%), the United Kingdom (5.7%), and Georgia (5.2%). Among cities and provinces in Turkey, Istanbul is the most appealing destination with more than 13 million visitor arrivals in 2018, followed by Antalya (approximately 12.5 million), Edirne (nearly 4 million), and Mugla (2.7 million).

Turkey is a modern country
Turkey is a modern country


Turkey has relatively modern technical infrastructure, increasing the country’s connectivity and facilitating tourists’ transportation. For example, the country has around 100 airports with Istanbul Atatürk Airport being the 11th busiest airport in the world. It also has an extensive road and railway networks, bridges across rivers, and high-speed railways. In some big cities such as Istanbul, it also constructed the metro system with around 90 stations in operation. However, due to Turkey’s rapid population growth (by 1 million each year) and a growing number of tourists, the current infrastructure needs to be expanded to accommodate higher demand (Turkey Investment Office, 2019).

One of the luxurious resorts in Turkey
One of the luxurious resorts in Turkey

Tourist facilities

In terms of tourist facilities, Turkey offers a comprehensive range of tourist accommodation, ranging from 1-star to 5-star hotels, resorts, motels, inns, holiday villages, thermal apartment, mountain houses, golf establishments, and camping sites. There are many internationally recognized hotel management brands and chains in Turkey such as Four Seasons, Shangri La, Crowne Plaza, Hyatt, InterContinental, Hilton and so on. Statistics of the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism revealed that the average stay duration at tourist accommodation were 5 nights for foreign visitors and 2 nights for domestic visitors. Golf establishments had the highest occupancy rate, followed by holiday villages. In recent years, many new types of accommodation are offered for tourists to Turkey such as hostels, Airbnb as well as more hi-end establishment.

One of the many buildings with traditional architecture in Turkey
One of the many buildings with traditional architecture in Turkey

Heritage and culture

Regarding heritage and culture, Turkey features rich culture and well-established traditions. Turkey’s values and culture are passed over by 13 great civilizations and three religions including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. They are also a combination of Eastern and Western culture. Moreover, Turkey used to lie along the trade and historical routes such as the Silk Road, Lycian Way etc. The cultural inheritance is demonstrated through the country’s visual arts and performing arts, cuisines, architecture, cultural and historical sites. For example, the most popular archaeological sites in Turkey include Aphrodisias, Göbeklitepe, Troy, Hattusha, Mount Nemrut, Pergamon, and Miletus (The Culture Trip, 2017). What’s more, Turkey houses many famous religious centers and museums. Nonetheless, despite best preservation efforts from the people and the government, many of these cultural and historical sites suffer from man-made and natural deterioration and destruction. For example, the World Heritage Designated Site of Diyarbakir \as damaged due to Turkey’s internal violence and military assault.

Amazing scenery in Turkey
Amazing scenery in Turkey


Turkey showcases mild weather and beautiful and pristine natural landscape. For instance, Turkish coastline spans around 8,000 km with the most luxurious beaches in the world featuring clear and clean water and beautiful surrounding. In addition to swimming, there are also diverse beach activities for tourists such as surfing, rafting, snorkeling, diving and kayaking. Some popular beaches in Turkey are Cleopatra, Kabak, Cirali, Konyaalti, and Kaputas beaches. Besides, Turkey also has a highland and mountainous areas with nearly untouched forests, lakes, fauna and flora, enabling many eco-tourism activities such as hiking, trekking, camping, and mountain climbing (Duman & Kozak, 2010). As more and more tourists flock to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations, it becomes more challenging for the local authority to raise awareness and protect the environment.

IV. Competitors and threats to Turkish tourism

With the recent global and regional economic and political developments, Turkey faces tremendous challenges to attract and retain visitors to the country. First, since Turkey’s tourism depends highly on foreign visitors, the economic and political issues in the source visitor countries will definitely affect Turkish tourism. For instance, the economic slowdown in European countries can certainly lower the number of visitors and their spending in Turkey. Second, competition among locations to attract visitors also becomes fiercer than ever before due to technological development and globalization, giving travelers more choices as to where to visit. To illustrate, in the past, Russians often chose to visit Turkey; now, a big proportion of them are choosing to explore China, and other European countries (RMMA Group, 2018). Therefore, locations need to develop a comprehensive and professional destination management plan to coordinate with all stakeholders to develop, promote and sustain the visitor economy in a location (Page, 2015). Lastly, the internal conflict and terrorism threats in Turkey also prompt tourists to opt for safer destinations such as emerging Asian countries or European countries.

Turkey's ongoing conflict
Turkey's ongoing conflict | Source

V. Conclusion

Tourism is an important economic sector in Turkey; hence, it needs proper planning to develop the sector sustainably. With the guidance of destination management organizations and inclusive tourism product portfolio, Turkey has a competitive advantage in realizing its tourism potentials. Since Millennials have become a major force of tourism income, destination planning management strategy has to focus on this group of customers and prioritize their demands. In addition, Turkey has to minimize the threats and internal violence to compete with other destinations to continually draw more visitors.


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