Turgut Muslu, director of tourism planning for the KKTC Economy and Tourism Ministry, told the Anatolia news agency recently that the KKTC was a “tourism paradise,” drawing attention to the island nation’s hotels, casinos and natural surroundings. Muslu said one of the biggest factors drawing visitors to the KKTC was the multiple vacation types available, translating into rich potential for the country: “Visitors interested in eco-tourism in northern Cyprus can enjoy everything from village stays to mountain walks, flora-fauna tours, cave exploration, bicycling and horse nature trails.”
Muslu said that as village stays were expanding, six buildings in KKTC villages -- Tatlısu, Büyükkonuk, Mehmetçik, Kumyalı, and Dipkarpaz - had been renovated. He added that eight more structures were currently under construction. Muslu said the project began in 2005 and was slated for completion soon, increasing the bed capacity in this sector by 180.
“There are many caves still waiting to be discovered in northern Cyprus. In the meantime, bicycle enthusiasts have been showing a lot of interest in the Beşparmak mountain range area, which offers so much in terms of its nature and history,” Muslu also said.
Muslu noted that new investments were being made on the island to promote the development of golfing tourism, pointing to the 18-hole golf course at the Korineum Golf Club in the KKTC’s Esentepe region.
Muslu also praised the possibilities for diving enthusiasts off the shores of northern Cyprus, noting that divers exploring the waters could come across a rich variety of sunken objects -- including sunken ships, airplanes and amphora from shipwrecks long ago -- and caves. “People who choose northern Cyprus for diving also get the chance to view some of the fish species unique to the Mediterranean, as well as sea turtles and other species of underwater life in these waters.” For yacht owners coming to northern Cyprus by water, Muslu mentioned the Girne and Delta marinas, which offer anchoring and longer term docking options for yacht owners, as well as the new marina under construction at Yenierenkoy, expected to enter service in 2009 with a 350-yacht capacity.
Numbers reveal rapid tourism growth
Muslu emphasized that the number of tourism facilities and their bed capacities in the KKTC exemplified the growth in the nation’s tourism sector. He brought to mind 2003, when the KKTC had 11,550 beds available in 115 tourist facilities. “In 2006 these numbers rose to 127 facilities with a total of 13,453 beds. And by last year, the number of hotels had risen to 130, with a bed capacity of over 15,000. There are 11 five-star hotels on the island. These alone offer 6,274 beds. In addition, there are 45 more hotels currently under construction, which, when completed, will offer 10,883 more beds. The Bafra region has been designated as a tourism investment zone. While one of the 13 advised tourism facilities in this zone has already been completed and is opening for service, four others are already under construction.” Muslu also said there were 16 hotels in northern Cyprus suitable for hosting large conferences.
Regarding the KKTC’s casino and gambling sector, Muslu said the casinos in 23 Turkish Cypriot hotels were an important attraction for visitors to the island: “Our casino customers contribute positively to tourism on the island and are an important factor in keeping tourism on its feet. The tax revenue from casinos makes up between 40-50 percent of the funds used for developing tourism and the promotion of northern Cyprus. So northern Cyprus really is a tourism paradise, one with casinos. When we are compared to southern [Greek] Cyprus, our casinos are just one more distinguishing feature.”