One of the most important details brought forward by the latest global financial crisis is that the tourism sector is one of the sectors that puts up the best fight against economic fluctuations. In this sense, the 100th meeting of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Tourism Committee was held in Paris with the theme: "Tourism for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth." Turkey, which is one of the 20 founding members of the OECD and has been a member of its Tourism Committee since 1948, attracts attention with its performance in tourism. Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, representing Turkey, which ranks sixth on the world rankings according to the number of tourists it receives, was the keynote speaker at the meeting that many ministers from OECD countries attended. Turkey - an active member of the Tourism Committee - stands out for its recent claim to manage world tourism.
Turkey aims to match the 36.8 million tourists and $34.3 billion revenue it attained from tourism in 2014 and carry this to 50 million tourists and $50 billion in revenue in 2019, with Istanbul claiming 11th place in this global competition environment regarding the number of tourists it sees - close to 9 million - surpassing many cities of the world such as Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Miami and Los Angeles. Kurtulmuş said that a strategy for diversification of the market and products is being drafted to reach the government's 2023 tourism targets. The rising Asia is the most critically important market for tourism's future in Turkey. In addition to Japan, the newly rising middle class in especially China, South Korea, India, Cambodia and Vietnam shine through in Turkey's market diversification strategy in tourism.
The OECD Tourism Committee's finding on the sector is that it is successfully resistant against global and regional crises with its corporate management and professionalism capabilities. Tourism fosters many other sectors and motivates the country to developing infrastructure. It is necessary for a country to reinforce its infrastructure in order to compete. The sector improves the understanding of green growth and environment in addition to contributing to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The digital era, with the sharing economy, is transforming the sector. This is why the OECD Tourism Committee also invited representatives of Airbnb and BlaBlaCar to the meeting. Tourism also stimulates efforts to lower carbon emissions with the added-value contribution to countries' sustainable and inclusive growth. However, the sector needs the development of smart financing models for smart investments.
Smart, dynamic strategy for tourism
One of the important points Kurtulmuş emphasized in his keynote speech was the vital role of tourism in the fight against discrimination, racism, and xenophobia. He said that as a Muslim country that is an EU candidate, Turkey has put an important effort into diminishing rising Islamophobia and that tourism and cultural cooperation are soft powers against Islamaphobia. Kurtulmuş, who indicated that Turkey has brought together a perfect synthesis of pre-Ottoman Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations with Seljuk and Ottoman traditions, highlighted that during these difficult times, Turkey can contribute to the overcoming of many issues with its strategy to create an effective and powerful language through Anatolia with its cultural and historical heritage.
New strategies with package programs are forecasted for tourists coming for the umrah, especially from Indonesia and Malaysia, which would include Istanbul and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Following a similar strategy, in addition to the strengthening in the Eastern Mediterranean with cruise tourism, defining joint tourism strategies with the Balkan countries and creating joint routes with Georgia and Azerbaijan for package tourism, are the primary strategic steps for Turkey to diversify in terms of markets and products. Kurtulmuş said that with product differentiation, new strategies oriented at health, convention, sports, mountain, highland, winter and religious tourism will be formed. Turkey, with its historic and cultural wealth along with natural beauty, is a treasure chest.
Hence, the aim is to increase the income per tourist to $1,000. Turkey's income per tourist level shifts between $790 and $990, which is also the global average. It is important to drive this value to $1,000 through product diversification. With its $7.6 trillion volume, 292 million jobs and by covering 30 percent of global service exports, the tourism and travel industry critically contributes to the global economy. In the upcoming period, Turkey, which has an important position in global tourism, will pursue its claim to direct global tourism and gain more market share by implementing smart and dynamic strategies.