Tourism professionals have set their eyes on Kanal Istanbul, which is currently one of the largest projects in Turkey and one of the key megaprojects within the scope of the government's 2023 development goals. Kanal Istanbul will relieve sea traffic on the Bosporus, tourism professionals said, emphasizing that besides eliminating risks on the Bosporus, it will enable yachts and tourist boats to move more easily on the Bosporus. A key among the government's 2023 goals, Kanal Istanbul will create a new tourism center of attraction for Istanbul, according to tourism professionals, who suggested that new congress centers, conference halls, marinas, hotels and a new city silhouette determined to be built there with Anatolian Seljuk motifs will lure tourists. They added that once completed, they would add the canal to their Istanbul advertisements as well as the Bosporus.
The project should be a tripod, tourism professionals suggested, indicating that one of the biggest shortcomings of Istanbul was the cruise port. They said even though the Galataport project being carried out in Karaköy, a historical district in Istanbul, will reduce this deficiency, it is not enough. Pointing out that work on the new cruise port in Yenikapı should begin as soon as possible, they think the Istanbul New Airport, the Yenikapı Cruise Port and Kanal Istanbul projects should be integrated, leading cruise ships to go to the Black Sea, thus increasing cruise tourism in the Marmara and the Black Sea regions.
TRAFFIC AND POLLUTION TO BE PREVENTED
The Kanal Istanbul project has created great excitement in the tourism sector, according to Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Secretary General Çetin Gürcün, who said that the Bosporus would be used more actively for tourism once the project is in use.
"With Kanal Istanbul being brought into action, big tankers will not be able to use the Bosporus. This will reduce traffic and prevent visual pollution. In addition, yacht and boat tours will also increase," said Gürcün.
The TÜRSAB secretary general emphasized that cruises will approach more easily with the project, suggesting that increased cruise tourism would significantly contribute to Istanbul's tourism revenue because the tourist profile of this group spends at least three times compared to a normal tourist.
NUMBER OF VISITORS TO REACH 50 MILLION
"A lot of things will change for Turkey and Istanbul with the opening of Turkey's mega project Kanal Istanbul," Firuz Bağlıkaya, CEO of Detur, one of the biggest travel agencies in Turkey, said. Bağlıkaya indicated the attention of the world would turn to Turkey with the project being put into operation. "With revenue of $100 billion and the employment of 1.5 million in five years, the project will greatly contribute to the promotion of Istanbul and thus the promotion of our country, which otherwise we would not be able to achieve with advertisement," he said. Istanbul has the capacity to host around 25 million tourists, Bağlıkaya said, indicating that the city welcomed around 11 million tourists in 2017. "Istanbul will reach a figure of 50 million tourists within five years of the commissioning of Kanal Istanbul, and we predict it will by far be the most visited city in Europe," he added.
Pointing out Kanal Istanbul's closeness to the Istanbul New Airport that will be opened this year, Bağlıkaya stressed that from this aspect; it would become a center of attention for investors as well.
"Along with the yacht ports, sports and culture areas, shopping and exhibition centers that will take place within it, the project will have a major contribution to the increase in per capita tourism revenues because it will become a center of attraction for foreigners with high income levels. Istanbul tourism will become a star of world tourism by achieving a brand new dimension with this project," Bağlıkaya concluded.
INCOME TO DOUBLE
On the other hand, the spokesman for the Platform of Tour Operators, Cem Polatoğlu, pointed to the necessity of Kanal Istanbul in terms of security. Indicating that he himself is a graduate of Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) Shipbuilding and Marine Sciences Faculty, he emphasized that the volume of newly built ships in the world was growing each passing day.
"When these ships cannot find a space to maneuver easily, their rudders are locked up, which is dangerous. The passage of big ships through the Bosporus is really becoming a big risk. I really attach importance to this Kanal Istanbul project," Polatoğlu said. Speaking of the economic contribution of the project, Polatoğlu said: "If Egypt's Suez Canal earns $24 billion a year, our income will be at least twice as much. If we even get half of it, our national income will increase significantly."
BLACK SEA ALTERNATIVES FOR CRUISES
Polatoğlu also pointed to the cruise port planned in Yenikapı, stating that it should be integrated with Kanal Istanbul and Istanbul New Airport. Underscoring that cruise ships with 6,500 people cannot come to Istanbul at the moment, Polatoğlu said that when the Yenikapı port project and Kanal Istanbul are completed, big cruise ships coming to Yenikapı would pass through Kanal Istanbul and reach the Black Sea. Explaining that large cruise ships are seeking new destinations, Polatoğlu said: "The Black Sea is in the focus of their interest; however, they cannot go there due to lack of a port and the difficulty of passing through the Bosporus. This is why the world's leading cruise companies have their eyes on this project."