Eyeing U.S., Turkey unveils ad campaign

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NEW YORK -- The Turkish Tourist Office launched a $4 million U.S. promotional campaign in the latest move designed to boost arrivals just months after several terrorist bombings in Istanbul.

The debut of the two-month-long "Turkey Welcomes You" print and television ad campaign in major U.S. markets follows the country's decision in mid-March to reduce the fee for single-entry tourist visas for Americans to $20, from $100, and to nearly halve port fees for Western cruise ships.

In addition, the Turkish government and tourist office successfully lobbied the U.S. State Department last month to lift the warning it had issued against travel to mostly Muslim Turkey in the wake of the November bombings.

Thanks to these efforts -- and despite negative publicity after the bombings, which led to some cruise cancellations -- arrivals from the U.S. rose by 6% in first-quarter 2004, according to Levent Demirel, director of the Turkish Tourist Office in New York.

"I think this year is going to be a record, and [if] nothing else happens I am expecting a 20% to 25% increase from the U.S.," he said, noting overall foreign arrivals rose 48% since Jan. 1.

That would be a turnaround from years past: Turkey saw U.S. arrivals drop by 42% in 2002 and 10% in 2003.

Demirel said visa fees were reduced to demonstrate that "Turkey is a friend of the U.S. that welcomes [Americans]."

"I just want Americans to come to Turkey, which has been a safe destination for Americans in the past, is now and will be in the future," Demirel said.

A second phase of Turkey's ad campaign later this year depends on positive results from this promotion, according to Demirel.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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