ravel Weekly Europe editor Kenneth
Kiesnoski discussed Turkey's current U.S. advertising campaign and
the state of its tourism industry with Levent Demirel, director of
the Turkish Tourist Office in New York.
Travel Weekly:It looks like Turkey is
spending a fortune on U.S. advertising at a time when Americans are
curtailing travel to parts of Europe and the Near and Middle East.
Can you put your efforts in perspective?
Demirel: Our tourism minister continues to be
very interested in the U.S. market and, in fact, is set to visit
the country to contract with tour operators and travel agents.
We're trying to organize at least six top-level meetings with
agents in the big markets, such as California, New York and
Florida, beginning this month.
In addition, the tourism ministry has designated $6 million for
promotion in the U.S. this year, an increase of 50% over 2001.
TW:But isn't Turkey, as a Muslim nation on
the periphery of the Middle East, at a disadvantage in attracting
U.S. travelers, given current regional tensions?
Demirel: I don't think so; Turkey is a secular
country, and the biggest ally of the U.S. in the region.
Everyone in Turkey is waiting to welcome U.S. visitors, although
we know Americans are waiting to see what happens in the Middle
East before traveling far [from home].
They should know, however, that we don't have security problems
-- and the problem regions are all very far away from Turkey.
I think many Americans do feel that Turkey is a safe
destination. As for the others, when they get to know more about
the country and misconceptions are disspelled, they will want to
go. We always get high marks in customer satisfaction.
TW:How is that reflected in your arrivals
figures, for this year and last?
Demirel: We saw a 25% increase in visitors for
the first three months of this year. And because we know Americans
love Turkey, I think we're going to see an even greater increase
before the end of the year; in fact, we doubled our arrivals
figures in the last five years -- and I think they will double
In 2001 -- even with Sept. 11 -- we exceeded 450,000 U.S.
visitors, compared with 550,000 in 2000. But that's still a good
figure, given that five years ago, only 150,000 Americans
TW:Many cruise lines abandoned eastern
Mediterranean routes after Sept. 11. What's the situation
Demirel: After the attacks, I did a survey of
cruise lines; most answered that they don't have a problem with
I also met with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and he said
Turkey is one of the safest destinations in the world. I think he
also wrote a letter to that effect to the heads of cruise
companies. So I believe at least some of them will return; they are
very important to us.