Respectable Ministers who honoured this meeting
Executives of Tourism Sector
We are aiming to improve World tourism during the following three days by exchanging our experiences and analysing the sector.
I believe such an organization is very significant in a period of time where the entire World is challenging against terrorism.
I would like to congratulate the organizators for this event.
As the whole World, we should stand as one against the threat of terrorism, which is against the development of tourism. Wherever the terrorism attack happens, in New York, in London, in Madrid, in Paris or in Istanbul it really doesn’t matter because we should react as one voice.
Because terrorism is a global problem and tourism is a global solution.
I am here today in order to talk about the current relations between Russia and Turkey and its effect over the market.
We have around 1000 guests from 20 different counties.
Even tough this topic seems as an issue between Turkey and Russia it is actually a global matter.
Therefore, I would like to analyze the political developments between countries and its influence over tourism through a different perspective. And I am kindly asking from you to evaluate this as a fact that could be illustrated as an example.
As you know, the trade volume between Turkey and Russia used to be 31 billion USD while it dropped to 21 billion USD today. When we analyse the import-export balance Russia seems to have advantage of 20% to 80% balance.
With a conjectural point of view, it seems this negative situation would keep itself. Taking into consideration the fact that Russian tourists consist of the 12% of tourist arrivals, a lose of 3 billion USD is obvious.
I went to Russia for the first time as a young businessman in 1994.
While in 1994, the first charter flights started to Antalya, today around 3.5 million Russian tourists are coming to Turkey.
Turkey has become the first destination that Russian tourists prefer to spend their vacations.
I lived in Russia for 16 years. During this period, I have personally witnessed 3 crises. Nevertheless, after all the crises were over, the trade volume and the investments have rapidly increased between the two countries.
And frankly today we are facing a problem that needs to be solved. However, this could be only solved through correct strategies.
I would like to share one of Einstein’s phrases: “If I had a minute to solve a problem, I’d spend 59 seconds thinking about the problem and 1 second thinking about solutions”
In accordance to this saying, I would like to evaluate the real problem.
First of all,
Internal political and economic instabilities of Russia are trying to be reflected as an international conflict between Russia and other countries.
For example, the tense relations started with Georgia and continued with Ukraine, European Union and Turkey.
Russian government obviously couldn’t perform an economical and fiscal success in the recent years.
Especially for the last two years, not only the purchasing power of the Russian citizens decreased but also unemployment rate and the index of unhappiness have dramatically increased.
As a consequence of the expansionist Russian foreign policy that forced EU to apply embargo and the tension created with Turkey has caused a reaction against the Putin government within the Russian citizens.
Therefore, it will not be wrong to state that the Putin government by keeping the international political arena tense they are trying to put into practice their perception management strategy on their citizens.
As a consequence of the political crisis between Turkey and Russia the freedom of travel of Russian tourists towards Turkey is seriously limited. Moreover, an obstacle for the Turkish origin tour operators has also emerged that are located in Russia.
Therefore, what are the major reasons of this situation?
1. The official unemployment reached to 20 million. Unofficially this number is expected to be around 30 million.
2. Economic dependency on the sales of energy
3. The Russian Ruble fell against USD, the decrease of the petroleum price and the reduction of monthly salaries from 30.000-40.000 Rubles (1000-1200 $) to 350-500 USD.
Especially, the crisis that is deeply felt during the last 2 years has reached to the peak when the price of petroleum dropped to 32 USD.
If the currency reaches to three digits then Russia will have to change its current edgy policy.
Allow me to remind that, during Yeltsin government, when Rubbles fell against USD and dropped to four digits the government was replaced with Putin government.
Getting back to our main topic. What all these have to do with tourism sector? Lets focus on this.
Annually, approximately 3.5-4 million Russians are travelling to Turkey. The embargo-applied against Turkey is preventing 5-6 billion USD exit of foreign currency. A Russian citizen right before the economic crisis used to travel with its two-thirds monthly salary; nevertheless, now a Russian needs his 3 months of salary to go for a vacation. Therefore, this is another proof that indicates that the reason why a Russian cannot travel is not because of political reasons but economic facts.
In order to veil this fact from the Russian public opinion the political tension policy is being executed.
However, it will not be correct to analyse this issue through a Russian-Turkey relation’s perspective because tourism is a global sector. Similar equations will effect all of us in the same manner.
A Russian family that cannot travel to Turkey would not be able to visit Spain, Italy or Greece. Even though it seems as an opportunity for our foreign colleagues actually they would face the same economic difficulties.
Obviously this is a multi dimensional issue, which I don’t want to contain with the subjects I shared. However, since the major issue of the forum is tourism, I wanted to illustrate the economic factors of Russia. Consequently, even though the whole crisis seems as political actually it’s purely based on economic insufficiency that is being used as a political mean.
Considering all these facts as the representatives of tourism sector, we need to focus on new markets. Besides the new markets, we should also review our current relations with the countries that we haven’t been using the potential efficiently and try to enhance sustainable relations.
Recently I attended the Irish Dublin RDS Holiday Show Exhibition. Ireland has a population of 4.5 million and every each citizen travels minimum 2 times per year. Half of the population travels 4-6 times per year. Furthermore, Ireland has 420.000 registered golf players. Therefore, this potential must be evaluated well. If we do such analysis we would be able to discover there are many countries with huge potentials.
According to the “Travel and Tourism Competition Power 2015 Report” Turkey is at the 16th rank with its cultural values. Thus, it is highly significant to focus on cultural tourism during our search for new markets. Health and sport tourism should be supported and developed. We own the newest touristic facilities and well-equipped hospitals in Europe.
Another significant issue is the balance of import and export. Tourism sector has the least import input. Even though the tourism sector representatives are not categorized within the exporters we are proud of providing this in practice.
The importance of the fact that tourism sector provides more than 35 billion USD foreign currency cannot be ignored. Therefore, we strongly and kindly ask for tourism sector to be accepted as an exporting sector and should be subjected to export drive.
Even though Turkey is at the 6th rank in the arrivals of tourists, it is at the 12th rank when it comes to the tourism incomes. Therefore, it is inevitable that we should improve the brand value of our country.
In order to increase the income of tourism sector it is significant to take these factors into consideration, which will also play role in creating new markets. Still Europe and USA are the most popular markets. However, in accordance to the new economic and political developments Indian and Chinese tourists travel the most.
Furthermore, every geography has its own market opportunities. For example, since we are improving our political relations with Israel this will also lead to a significant contribution to the tourism sector.
Please allow to me state that Turkish tourists are also great potentials for our foreign colleagues. In 2015, Turkish citizens travelled abroad 9 million times for different reasons. In the frame of World tourism, the potential of Turkey must be evaluated. In order to increase the travels of Turks the visa application must be removed. In such a case, mutual cultural exchange opportunity would increase.
It is essential not to forget that countries most noteworthy peace ambassadors are the tourists.
I would like to end my speech with an inspirational saying of Russian writer Anton Chekhov: “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice”