MOSCOW, March 18 (Itar-Tass) — Turkey waits for four million Russian tourists in 2012 and develops a new direction of tourism – religious tours, said Turkish Minister of Tourism Ertugul Gunay in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass on Sunday.
He is now on a visit to Moscow.
“We expect around four million tourists from Russia in 2012, which is the second place after Germany in the number of tourists visiting Turkey, and we hope that Russia will preserve its position,” he emphasized.
The minister also touched on an incident with poisoning Russians with doctored alcohol in Bodrum. “We take utmost efforts to stiffen control over strong beverages,” Gunay noted. “I was gladdened by the fact that Russian authorities correctly perceived our efforts. We have no problems with the Russian side.”
“I’d like to witness a rising number of Russian guests and that Russians would come to us not only for holiday-making on beaches. We take all efforts to create a possibility for tourists to visit our country also with a view for religious and cultural tourism,” the minister added.
“Antalya remains the most popular direction for the time being, but I know how educated Russians are. Taking into account the rich cultural potential of Russia, I’d like Russians to frequent our cultural sight-seeing places,” Gunay continued.
“Turkey is now developing religious tourism,” the minister noted. “We have something to offer, for instance, the well-known Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, which was already restored and opened for visits by pilgrims; the Armenian church Akdamar in the Van province as well as churches and mosques in Eastern Antalya.
“Besides, annual events are staged in the city of Demr, the native place of St. Nicholas whom the entire world knows as Santa Claus.”
Gunay said also of such “pearls” of Turkish historic heritage as St. Sofia Cathedral and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul.
“Turkey has ten places which are already on the list of the UNESCO world heritage,” the minister went on to say. “Another 26 are claimants to be put down on this list. All of them are open for visits.”
In conclusion, Gunay praised Russian-Turkish cooperation in culture and tourism as well as informed that during his Moscow visit, the sides signed the Protocol on further cooperation in these spheres between the two countries.