Published on : Monday, December 30, 2019
Turkey Tourism is aiming to welcome 75 million international and domestic visitors in 2020. Turkey has vast opportunity to promote its tourism. The Culture and Tourism Ministry in Turkey has included religious tourism in its 2023 Tourism Strategy Plan as a means of appealing to more international tourists, which will be up from 50 million. To this end, Culture and Tourism Ministry in Turkey has planned a religious route the crosses the country, with five religious tourism hubs already having been pinpointed to spearhead the initiative.
With its diverse range of touristic opportunities, such as gastronomy, health, culture and congress tourism, Turkey has already nearly reached its original 2023 goal of attracting 50 million tourists two years ahead of schedule, the Istanbul Tourism Associations (ISTTA) Chairman İbrahim Halil Korkmaz said Sunday, adding that the country was now widening its targets, putting a stronger focus on religious tourism.
Korkmaz said that they are now aiming to welcome 75 million tourists by the end of 2022 with expected revenue of $65 billion. He highlighted the importance of making the country a religious tourism hub in an attempt to achieve these targets, noting that the number of Muslim tourists had already reached up to 140 million by 2018, compared to a mere 25 million in 2000.
Turkey is in an advantageous position in terms of religious tourism potential, given it has a wealth of sites not only significant for Muslims, but followers of several religious denominations, as a historical meeting point of civilizations.
There are certain places in Turkey that are significant for Christianity, as some cities are believed to be on the Christian’s pilgrimage way. Saint Paul’s Church in the Tarsus district of the western Turkish province of Mersin is one of them where “Paul of Tarsus” is believed to have been born, attracting millions of Christian pilgrims, who are baptized by water from the holy well. The another important Christian site is the Home of the Virgin Mary in the Selçuk district of İzmir, a western Turkish city where the assumption of the Virgin Mary to heaven is believed to have taken place, dating back to the Apostolic Age. It has been a popular spot for Christian pilgrims since its discovery in the 19th century.
The fourth-century saint St. Nicholas, also known as Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas of Myra, the saint who inspired the commercialized figure of Santa Claus, was also born in what is now Turkey. The saint is remembered in his hometown – the Demre district of modern-day Turkey’s southern Antalya province – every year, with ceremonies led by Phanar Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, an Istanbul-based church with followers both in Turkey and across the world.
Turkey is also home to the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of Prophet Muhammad and a prominent warrior in the Muslim campaign to conquer Constantinople, who died in 672. The tomb is located in the area known as Eyüp, which is how the martyr is known in Turkish.