Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy attended the "Turkish-Greek 9th Tourism Forum".
Speaking at the opening of the program, Minister Mehmet Ersoy said about visa exemption with Greece, “Providing visa exemption to Turkish citizens is among the priority items of our agenda. Until this happens, we will be pleased to continue the practice of issuing visas at the ports on the islands during the tourist season, and to evaluate a similar practice in the context of Turkish tourists' trips to Northern Greece.” said.
Minister Ersoy stated that they attach great importance to improving the relations between Greece and Turkey in every field. Pointing out that they believe that the development of relations in the field of trade and tourism will also contribute positively to the solution of political problems, Ersoy said, “We know that the tourism sector is a part of the dialogue process at the bilateral level. kazanIt serves the peoples to get to know each other in a way that will make their relationship permanent.” he said.
Reminding that the previous meeting was held in Athens on October 13, 2011, Ersoy said that after a long break, these cooperation mechanisms will be able to function again. kazanHe said that they were very pleased with their work.
Expressing that the epidemic negatively affected the tourism sector of Turkey and Greece, as in the whole world, Ersoy said:
“We are carrying out various studies to minimize the negative effects of the Kovid-19 epidemic in our country. Our Ministry has prepared a 'Safe Tourism' certification program to enable safe tourism in Turkey. Here, I would like to point out that, as a result of the measures taken in our country and the rapid implementation of vaccination, significant regressions have been achieved in the data regarding the pandemic. In this context, we would like to apply travel restrictions as little as possible, taking into account the course of the pandemic, of course, in order to bring the tourist traffic between our countries to pre-pandemic levels.”
Request to start ferry services
Stating that as of October 1, 2021, Greece started to allow private tour boats and cruise ships departing from Kuşadası and Istanbul to pass to Kavala and some Greek islands, Ersoy said: direction will increase. This will have a very positive impact on both Turkish and Greek operators. We want to establish a quick dialogue mechanism on the occasion of this meeting so that ferry services can be restarted. At the Tourism Joint Committee meeting we will hold tomorrow, we expect this issue to be discussed in detail by all stakeholders and a road map will be determined.” said.
Mentioning that there are currently 52 frequency flights between the two countries, Ersoy stated that 42 of them are reserved for Turkish Airlines and 10 for Pegasus Airlines.
Ersoy said that Pegasus Airlines requested to organize Sabiha Gökçen-Athens flights from 10 to 14 weekly, 7 times a week on the Sabiha Gökçen-Thessaloniki line, and three weekly flights to Lesbos, Crete, Rhodes and Mykonos during the summer periods.
“As a result of the Tourism Forums and Tourism Joint Committee Meetings we held regularly until 2011, as a result of the application of visa issuance in the ports of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos, Rhodes, Meis and Simi during the tourism season since 2012, the number of tourists going to Greece from our country has increased. As of the end of 2015, the number of Turkish tourists visiting Greece exceeded one million with a historical record. We must jointly prevent the visa regime from creating an obstacle to tourism cooperation. Providing visa exemption to Turkish citizens is among the priority items of our agenda. Until this happens, we will be pleased to continue the practice of issuing visas at the ports on the islands during the tourist season, and to evaluate a similar practice in the context of Turkish tourists' trips to Northern Greece.”
Pointing out that another dimension of the tourism cooperation between Turkey and Greece is the issue of creating a joint tour package for distant markets and promoting together, Ersoy said that they will work to resolve this issue quickly.
Pointing out that there is a tendency for tourists to visit more than one country during trips to Europe from distant markets such as the USA, China, India, Brazil and Japan, Ersoy said:
“This situation is not only limited to cruise travels, but also comes to the fore in travels made by air in recent years as a result of the developments in air transport. The idea of creating tour packages for distant markets covering Turkey and Greece, two countries with geographical and cultural proximity and common values, has been discussed between the governments and industry representatives for many years. In this regard, the tourism sector has a great deal to do, and some travel agencies operating in two countries before the pandemic started to organize tour packages covering both countries for distant markets. However, unfortunately, the desired performance was not realized, especially in terms of making the South America and Far East tours more comprehensively and widely.”
“We see Greece as a partner, not a competitor”
Emphasizing that it would be beneficial to carry out joint studies on cruise tourism between the two countries, considering the potential of the Aegean Sea, Ersoy stated that the cruise port, which was put into operation in Istanbul, received full marks from the sector representatives.
Minister Ersoy also stated that they want to finalize the "Cooperation Protocol between the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the Greek Republic for the Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage" as soon as possible and expressed that the cooperation they have established with other countries in the fight against cultural property smuggling is of great importance.
Inviting the tourism professionals of Greece to participate in the “Travel Turkey Izmir” tourism fair to be held in Izmir on 2-4 December and the EMITT tourism fair to be held in Istanbul on 9-12 February 2022, Ersoy said, “A bilateral meeting with my colleague before the meeting. we did. The result we have arrived at is actually very practical. When we see Greece as a partner country, not a competitor, how much do both countries think about this? kazanWe know you're going to go crazy. From now on, we want to focus our strategies on the Aegean Region, which receives the most tourists from the world, as two partner countries. We will develop our strategies and cooperation in this direction.” he concluded his speech.
“We can overcome all difficulties with friendly relations”
Greek Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilyas stated that today's meeting was extremely constructive.
Noting that they want to reduce bureaucracy as much as possible, Kikilyas said, “We have to reduce the operations related to the basic parts of tourism to the simplest level possible. We have to make tourism revenues a part of the gross national product in both countries. Because tourism is an important source of income for both Greece and Turkey.” made its assessment.
Pointing out that tourism provides the opportunity for cooperation and rapprochement between the two countries, Kikilyas said, “Our goal is to increase the number of cities to be connected by sea. Of course, we think that both İzmir should be united with Thessaloniki by sea. I told Mr. Ersoy, 'We can work on this issue'.” said.
Underlining that they are carrying out studies taking into account the epidemic and health protocols, Kikilyas said that they aim to increase the tourist movement between the two countries.
Noting that Turks are highly qualified guests and tourists, Kikilyas said, “We are extremely pleased to host them. We hope that these activities will increase after the pandemic ends.” said.
Stating that he also frequently visits Turkey, Kikilyas said, “We discussed the issue with the Minister regarding the increase in the number of flights with airline companies. We will consider this issue in more detail in the future. ” he said.
Kikilyas stated that joint work on distant destinations will also provide great benefits to the two countries and said:
“We all know that we go through sensitive periods from time to time. But we must agree on this. Tourism, connecting our cities with each other, are the subjects that we need to work harder and more intensively on travels. I believe that with personal and friendly relations, we can overcome all difficulties. When we look at the example of gastronomy, there are really excellent dishes in your country. You have very nice wines. Your desserts are beautiful. You make the guest feel a special warmth and closeness. You are an extremely hospitable person. I believe this whole region is blessed by God. Tourism revenues of the region can reach much higher levels. We have an opportunity ahead of us. Everyone in this hall is together for collaborations. We are here to find solutions to some problems and problems. We are here to look at the big picture. It is necessary to see the whole forest behind the tree, not the tree.”
“We will have a better season this year”
Turkey Tourism Promotion and Development Agency General Manager Yalçın Lokmanhekim said that they hoped that the tourism movements between the two countries would catch up with the pre-epidemic in the near future.
Greek Ministry of Health Secretary General Marios Themistocleous also stated that Greece and Turkey have achieved significant success in the fight against the pandemic. Mentioning that the vaccination rate in Greece is 65 percent, Themistocleous said, “As Ministry of Health employees, we predict that the obstacles to travel will decrease this summer. This means that you will develop cooperation in the field of tourism.” said.
Greek Hotel Chamber President Alexandros Vassilikos also stated that the tourism sector was most affected by the epidemic.
Mentioning that the industry is facing problems quickly, Vassilikos said, “I believe we will have a better season this year. People now believe they can travel. There is hope in this direction. If we develop cooperation, we will meet these challenges more easily. Now we have to quickly adapt to the new conditions. If we maintain the cooperation between us, we will be able to achieve our goals more easily.” he said.
Mahmut Özgener, Chairman of the Izmir Chamber of Commerce, talked about the Aegean Tourism Center-Çeşme Project. Stating that the project will be an example of nature-friendly and responsible tourism, Özgener said, “The Çeşme Project, where tourism is foreseen 50 years from now, will also be an opportunity for the islands in the Aegean Sea and our neighbor Greece.” said.
After the speeches, the ministers of the two countries signed the "Turkish - Greek 9th Tourism Forum Joint Cooperation Protocol".
Izmir Governor Yavuz Selim Köşger and tourism representatives of the two countries also attended the opening.