Turkey woos Chinese tourists during Lunar New Year holiday
Turkey is welcoming Chinese visitors for the Lunar New Year holiday, with different regions and institutions making efforts to offer them a safe and pleasant stay.
In the new airport of Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city and economic-cultural hub, many shops have placed big banners in Chinese to welcome arriving Chinese tourists, offering them discounts and holiday bargains.
The week-long Chinese holiday started on Friday, groups of visitors have flocked to the airport where many were picked up by travel agencies.
“Our clients mainly go to Cappadocia (central Anatolia), the ancient city of Ephesus (western Turkey) or stay in Istanbul to visit many historic landmarks of the city,” Irfan Karsli, head of Ligarba Turizm Travel, told Xinhua.
He explained that compared to previous years, Turkey’s Tourism Ministry and private institutions have created a more friendly atmosphere to draw more tourists from China.
This year, the Istanbul municipality erected posters and signs in Chinese across touristic places.
“We see that there is real intent to be more prepared and focused on the need of the Chinese visitors, for example, in regard of the Chinese payment systems and Chinese-speaking guides and airport staff,” noted Karsli, who has been exploring the Chinese market for over two decades.
“We have arranged Chinese language courses for the airport staff to offer a smooth experience for our Chinese guests,” Karsli said.
In December 2019, Turkey’s Isbank, which has the country’s largest network for overseas payments, further expanded cooperation with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s payment platform Alipay, a move hailed by travel agencies working with Chinese clients.
The new deal between Isbank and Alipay will make the latter accessible on the bank’s point of sale (POS) devices in addition to the already existing cooperation on e-transactions.
Moreover, Turkish Airline has announced the addition of Xi’an, the Chinese city with 3,000 years of history, to its flight network. Xi’an has become the flag carrier’s fourth destination on the Chinese mainland and the 318th in the world.
Ali Can Aksu, head of the Turkish Hotel Managers Association, noted that the occupancy of the hotels in destinations popular for Chinese tourists has seen an over 28 percent year-on-year increase.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey has gone up, with a 9 percent increase in the first 11 months of 2019, reaching 403,739, according to official data.
However, there is still room for improvement to reach the 1 million tourists target agreed upon by both Beijing and Ankara.
In one of Turkey’s leading tourist attractions, Pamukkale, located in the central Aegean province of Denizli, globally famed for its unique travertine terraces and healing waters, a hotel manager told Xinhua that they are doing their upmost to make Chinese visitors feel at home.
“We have this year several staff who followed Chinese language courses and are at the disposal of our guests. We are also offering them exemplars of Turkish gastronomic delights more up to their palates,” indicated Murat Eroglu.
The site has welcomed some 2.6 million local and foreign visitors throughout 2019.
In central Anatolian Cappadocia, another favorite destination of Chinese visitors, famous for its unique landscape and underground ancient cities, hot air balloon rides have become a must to admire from above the “fairy chimney” rock formations.
Cappadocia is the most popular location in the world for hot air ballooning. Last year, nearly half of the world’s balloon trips took place in the region, with more than half a million people taking to the blue skies, among whom were many Chinese visitors.