The arrivals of Indian tourists in Turkey significantly increased in 2018, skyrocketing by 80 percent compared to the previous year, according to Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India's ambassador to Turkey.
The ambassador's remarks came during his visit to one of the most important ski resorts in Turkey, Palandöken in eastern Erzurum province, to observe the tourism potential of the region.
Bhattacharyya was quoted by Anadolu Agency (AA) as saying that he skied on Palandöken accompanied by instructors, expressing his admiration for Erzurum.
Palandöken stands out among ski centers for its unique trails visited by numerous local and foreign tourists every year. With a capacity for 12,000 skiers, the center has 24 trails that are among the longest and steepest in the world.
With the longest ski track in Turkey, Palandöken, which hosted the University Winter Games in 2011 and the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in 2017, offers local and foreign visitors a true skiing experience. The summit of the 3,000-meter mountain bears the name Büyük Ejder (The Great Dragon).
Indicating that there are also high-altitude mountains in his country as well, he said: "India is a country with quite high mountains. In summer, I take nature walks with friends there. The altitude of the mountains reaches 6,000 meters. I have been at such high altitudes. I have tried it with friends in Japan as well. When we go on vacation, my children ski, and I sit and watch them with my wife. After seeing Erzurum, I thought about changing this, and I had an hour of ski training with a very nice instructor here. I am not going to ski from the summit yet, but I am going to focus on this."
Emphasizing that Palandöken has nice ski tracks, the ambassador said there is really an amazingly charming environment on the mountain. "We have so many places in India. Indian tourists often go to Europe or ski in the Himalayas, but this can be a new destination because it has beautiful nature. We want people to come from here to India so we can get to know each other better," he added.
Pointing out that Erzurum is a very rich city in terms of history, Bhattacharyya noted that the city has hosted many cultures since the Roman Empire.
Noting that Indian tourists often prefer Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya, Bhattacharyya remarked that Erzurum, Lake Van and Kars could be presented as a package to attract the attention of Indian tourists.
"In this sense, the Black Sea also has very rich potential, which should be assessed. Last month, we had a meeting in Istanbul with 60 tour operators from India. It is important that tour operators work together. If tour operators can offer a package about the eastern Anatolia region, there will be a significant increase in the number of tourists," he said.
According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, around 147,127 Indian tourists visited Turkey last year, up from 86,996 in 2017 and 79,316 in 2016.
In the meantime, the ambassador announced earlier this week that they are planning to hold a huge festival in Istanbul, Ankara, Konya and İzmir [provinces], which will feature different activities in music, dance, food, beverages and yoga.
Taking his office eight months ago, Bhattacharyya said he considers Turkey as his second home.