Some 3,000 participating companies from over 150 countries underlined the relevance of the MITT for the nation’s tourism. In 2009 more than 85,000 visitors attended the event and early figures for this year’s trade fair, which closed its doors last Sunday, are equally promising. Last year professionals accounted for 74 percent of all attendees.
This year the northeastern town of Kars was able to introduce both the province and the wider region. The trip was made possible with the support of a specific program the United Nations (UN) currently runs in Turkey: Not only is Kars one of Turkey’s 15 “brand cities” but it benefits from the Alliances for Culture Tourism in Eastern Anatolia UN Joint Program, too.
The Russian market offers enormous potential for Turkish tourism operators. A new middle class is emerging and becoming potential customers, in addition to the already existing market of wealthy business people who like to travel abroad more frequently. Antalya and Kemer have already witnessed an increase in the number of Russian visitors. Other provinces in Turkey would be well advised to join the bandwagon of attracting a more diverse clientele -- aka those with more purchasing power -- and it is a known fact in the trade that most Russian guests spend more than tourists from other countries.
Today’s Zaman learned from Ayşegül Oğuz, who had accompanied a representative from Kars’ tourism sector to Moscow on behalf of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Turkey that this project aims to develop and enhance cultural tourism, contributing to social cohesion and reducing income disparities between the province and other parts of the country. The MITT was chosen due to its huge impact within the ever-increasing Russian tourism market. There is a historic dimension attached to going to Moscow, too, as Kars features many examples of elegant Russian architecture in its town centre.
The MITT and the fact that Kars was able to participate in the event held at Moscow’s Expocenter shows that pro-active marketing and professional strategies may ultimately pay off. Kars should be able to benefit from growing Russian, European and global interest in culture, nature and eco tourism as well as winter sports. To implement this strategy, it implies not only competing with Spain, for example, in three “S” tourism (sea, sand and sun), but perhaps with Switzerland or Austria with regard to mountain and winter tourism. If the government and local authorities are able to provide a much improved infrastructure and regional entrepreneurs in the tourism sector upgrade their products and services, quality regions such as Kars may become the new hot picks on Turkey’s incoming tourism map. Support from the UNDP may prove vital to bringing both sides closer together.