Turkey will take Chinese-friendly action to draw more tourists from China by offering them a welcoming atmosphere and establishing "Chinatowns" where they can eat Chinese food and use Chinese payment systems, the country's tourism minister said.
The efforts include setting up Chinese-language signboards, opening more Chinese restaurants, and offering Chinese cuisine in multilingual menus, and increasing Chinese-speaking tour guides, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said recently.
"We are taking a raft of measures very soon. China is a major player and is the country sending the biggest number of tourists around the world. With these efforts, we intend to make Chinese visitors' travels in Turkey smoother," he pointed out.
He said that "Chinatowns," where Chinese visitors would be able to eat Chinese food, speak to servers in Chinese and pay in Chinese currency system, would be established within a new tourism master plan to be announced very soon.
The minister indicated that around 450,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey in 2018 and that this number was expected to rise to around 650,000 this year.
"We aim to draw some 2 million Chinese visitors by 2023 with the new measures that we will implement," the minister noted, adding that besides the Chinese market, the Turkish government was also looking forward to attracting more tourists from other parts of Asia.
While tourism professionals hailed the ministry's initiative, which they said is "a must" to make Chinese visitors at ease in Turkey, they pointed out also that it is somewhat a belated move while trying to lure more and more Chinese visitors in the country.
"Before quantity we have to make sure that Chinese visitors, who have a different traveler profile than Western tourists, feel at home in Turkey and thus we have to offer them a quality vacation," said Irfan Karsli, head of Ligarba Turizm travel agency, to Xinhua.
Working actively with the Chinese market since 1997, Karsli, who is also founder of the Chinese Cultural Association in Istanbul, underscored the urgent need for more "effective" Chinese-speaking travel guides.
"Currently there are just over a hundred active travel guides who speak Chinese in Turkey. It's very far from being sufficient for the huge numbers mentioned by the authorities. Communication is essential with Chinese travelers, otherwise the tour doesn't mean anything," he pointed out.
Karsli said, "hotels should offer more Chinese food in their menus if we want to draw more Chinese tourists. You cannot offer them kebabs (typical Turkish food) all day long."
Chinese travelers are especially drawn to Istanbul, Turkey's biggest and historical city, and Cappadocia, located in central Anatolia and famous for its unique landscape, underground cities and hot air balloon rides.
Currently closing up the summer season, tourism operators and professionals are already working for the upcoming 2020 season, concentrating particularly on the Far East.
Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines has increased its flights to China in the recent period, followed by other airlines flying to Istanbul.
Turkish Airlines, which has one daily flight from China's Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing airports respectively, will launch another daily flight from Shanghai Airport as of April 2020. It is also set to launch scheduled flights to China's northwestern city of Xi'an, which is on the ancient Silk Road.
It has recently received the necessary approvals to start the Xi'an-Istanbul flights. Carrier officials then said the scheduled flights to the Chinese city would be carried out seven times a week.
After China's Sichuan Airlines, China Southern Airlines has also scheduled one daily direct flight to Turkey, while Qatar, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan's national airlines are also set to fly from China to Turkey.