Will the Year of Troy trigger the year of the comeback for Turkey tourism?

Turkish Airlines has launched a Troia-themed aircraft to support the country's Year of Troy tourism campaign.
Turkish Airlines has launched a Troia-themed aircraft to support the country's Year of Troy tourism campaign.
Felicity Long
Felicity Long

Much has been written in the last few years about the relative safety of Turkey as a tourist destination.

As the Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism gears up to promote the Year of Troy 2018, I've been giving the issue a lot of thought. Turkey has long been one of my favorite destinations in the world, thanks to awe-inspiring historical and archaeological sites, stunning scenery and world-class cuisine, among other draws.

In 2015, I took my daughter on a cruise that included calls at Cesme and Kusadasi despite some incidents along the Syrian border, a trip that made her a fan of the destination, as well.

That said, a few months later, I found myself only about 25 miles from Ankara the day of the blast that killed more than 100 people, and a year after that I was at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport just a few hours before it was attacked by terrorists.

Even after this run of violence, I've remained cautiously optimistic, despite additional incidents and ongoing political tension.

So to answer my own question, I think it's fair to say that Turkey is one of the great destinations of the world and that every traveler has his or her own level of risk tolerance. It also falls on each of us to stay informed. The U.S. state department issued a travel advisory in January that contains information on the relative safety of different regions of the destination, and beyond that travel professionals and consumers can only rely on their own experience and good judgment.

With that in mind, am I excited about the Year of Troy? Yes, very much so. The campaign marks the 20th anniversary of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage listing, which in turn celebrates the myth of the Trojan War, said to have taken place in the 12th or 13th century B.C. and immortalized in Homer's "The Iliad." But while the war, or certainly the Trojan horse, is widely considered to be myth, many archaeologists agree that the ruins discovered in Canakkale might well be the ancient city of Troy.

The Year of Troy promotion will feature a dazzling menu of new attractions and events in support of this anniversary.

The biggest news is the highly anticipated grand opening of the Troy Museum in Canakkale in the fall. Also of note are the International Trojan Food Festival-Canakkale in June and the Trojan Horse Short Film Festival in October.

"Both the legendary poem and the archaeological discoveries at Troy in Canakkale have played an important role in forming the identity of ancient and modern-day Turkey," said Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey's minister of culture and tourism.

"By recognizing the Year of Troy with initiatives that celebrate and document that history, we are ensuring that our cultural heritage remains an important part of our story for future generations in the hundreds or thousands of years to come."

Other highlights will be the creation of new tourist routes: the Troy Culture Road from Canakkale to the archaeological sites at Alexandria Troas, and St. Paul Way from Alexandria Troas to Assos, a town so ancient Aristotle is said to have been a visitor.

A Troy theme park and visitors center in Canakkale is also poised to open this year, and excavations of the city itself are expected to ramp up this summer.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has launched a Troia-themed aircraft to support the Year of Troy campaign, with a specially designed A321-type aircraft adorned with the Trojan horse image.

With all these enticements, could this really be the year of the rebound?

Tourism numbers are climbing back so far in 2018 and are expected to come in at around 37.9 million by the end of the year, according to the ministry of tourism, a noteworthy spike from 2016's 30.9 million.

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