Spotlight: Istanbul aspires to be major tourist destination with culture, gastronomy, nightlife

Source: Xinhua| 2019-12-14 22:36:26|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Zeynep Cermen

ISTANBUL, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The authorities in Istanbul have been working at full capacity to make the most populous city of Turkey among the top three most visited destinations in the world by means of unlocking its potentials in such aspects as culture, gastronomy and nightlife.

Cumhur Guven Tasbasi, coordinator of the Tourism Platform with the Istanbul municipality, is hopeful of the city reaching the top three through the right moves.

"Istanbul is an outstanding destination with a good reputation in the world, having no difference from London, Paris, New York or Beijing," he told Xinhua. "However, it still doesn't have a status it deserves in tourism."

In Tasbasi's view, Istanbul had previously made itself popular with visitors through its vivid nightlife, endless eating and drinking options, and diverse cultural activities.

The metropolis, however, lost these features in 2015 and 2016, when a series of bombing attacks targeted its tourist destinations. What's more, a coup attempt and political uncertainty at home plus unending rows with Russia and some European states contributed to a dwindling number of visitors.

"We are exerting a significant effort to bring Istanbul's lost features back to the city," said Tasbasi.

The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism is about to announce next year as "The Year of Gastronomy," according to Kaya Demirer, chairman of the board of the Turkish Restaurants and Entertainment Association.

In his view, it is a "vital move" helpful in improving Istanbul's reputation and generating more revenues.

People who love gastronomical items are "socio-economically stronger" and more easily impressed culturally, Demirer told Xinhua.

"So Istanbul will have art and history and fashion combined with strong gastronomy to offer to the whole world," he said, expecting the initiative to draw more attention and encourage higher spending by visitors.

Currently, the focus is on diversifying the restaurants to accommodate different tastes and enable tourists to have a better nightlife in Istanbul.

Tasbasi said his platform has been working to increase the number of Michelin-star restaurants and gastropubs across the city.

Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul, has instructed municipal officials to establish a Chinatown in the city, a move that shall further contribute to the rich flavors, said the coordinator.

Tasbasi's platform is trying to find the right location for Chinatown, focusing mostly on the Asian side of Istanbul with a view to drawing more tourists to destinations there.

The historical peninsula on the European part of the city, featuring the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia and the Ottoman-era Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, is among the most visited destinations.

The Kadikoy district on the Asian part along the Marmara Sea has become lately highly popular with locals for its lively cultural events, shopping centers, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

"We want the Asian part to be attractive to tourists as well," said Tasbasi.

Over 12.6 million tourists visited Istanbul in the first 10 months of this year, generating more than one third of tourism revenues for the country, according to official data.

Istanbul is ranked 9th on the list of expected top 100 city destinations in 2019, according to a report released recently by Euromonitor International, a London-based market research company.

The official data also reveal that the average spending in Istanbul by foreign tourists dropped to 649 U.S. dollars between January and September, down from 850 dollars in 2003.

Demirer is expecting Istanbul to become top five revenue-generating cities in the world within four to five years with right moves taken to encourage an average spending of 1,000 dollars.

Tourism representatives in the city are trying to tap new markets, including far-eastern countries, especially China.

"We are working very closely with China in this regard," Tasbasi said. "We have established close contacts with local and central administrations there to introduce Istanbul to the consumers in China."

"We also want to draw more Europeans into the city," Tasbasi added. "As they attach great importance to culture and art, as of this year, we want to co-organize cultural, artistic and sports activities with European countries."