Neha Singla March - April 2016
Coordinator, Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Asia and Pacific Section
Indian Travellers’ Quality: A Major Growth Factor
With United Nations and World Trade Organisation betting high on outbound tourism from India in the coming years, Turkey wants to take a big pie of this emerging Indian market for which a simpler visa process comes as an added advantage, says Ayturk.
What kind of growth has Turkey seen as a tourism destination in India?
In 2015, we saw a growth rate of more than 10 pc from India to Turkey. We received nearly 130,000 Indian travellers to Turkey throughout the year.
For how long you have been trying to promote destination Turkey in India?
For the past five-six years we are working on promoting the destination Turkey in the Indian market with different mediums such as media campaigns, tourism exhibitions, various road shows, cultural events and many other interesting platforms.
A common Indian mindset while planning a holiday to Europe either has France, Italy, Spain or Switzerland. How do you try to penetrate this segment? Whatever the Indian traveller is looking for in a European destination, Turkey already has it. In fact, Turkey is both on European and Asian side. In the context of modern life aspects such as shopping and nightlife, Turkey has it all. Moreover, Turkey has what the other European destinations do not have and that is the Asian aspect. The culture and heritage of Turkey and India have many things in common. Interestingly, when I tell my Indian friends that Turkish and Indian languages have thousand of common words for example, dost (friend) and duniya (world) – they get really surprised. Apart from that when it comes to cuisine, Turkey has very rich variety of meals that will appeal to Indian travellers’ taste buds – be it non-vegetarian food like kebabs or vegetarian food. So we say that if you prefer a European destination, Turkey is already a European destination with an Asian connection.
How important is the Indian market for you?
It is really important knowing that India has great potential and is a very promising market. This is not something that only we say but it is there in the reports of United Nations (UN) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), which state that by 2020, the number of Indians travelling abroad will increase to 50 million. This has been seen globally and Turkey is also trying to position itself in this emerging Indian market to be one of the most popular destinations amongst the Indian travellers. So yes, India is really important for us.
How is the connectivity between India and Turkey and how do you plan to expand this network?
If we talk about connectivity, the national airline – the Turkish Airlines – has direct daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Istanbul and now they want to expand it. They want to increase the number of slots and expand to other cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. It also intends to increase the number of seats from Delhi and Mumbai to double the traffic but of course it is upto the agreements between both the countries and their respective ministries. Apart from that there are a lot of other airline companies, which are flying not directly but with some very good connecting halts in between via Doha, Dubai, Shahjahan and couple of more cities. So I don’t think that connectivity is an issue between the two countries.
What you have to say on the visa process – how simple or difficult is it for Indian travellers?
Frankly, for Indian nationals, we give visa service through the embassy in New Delhi and through the consulates in Mumbai and Hyderabad. We don’t work with agents like VFS, we try to do something better. If you are applying to the embassy or consulate and you are not travelling in big groups, then you submit your application in the morning and you get the visa in the afternoon. In normal conditions, it doesn’t take more than three days for the groups also. Apart from that we have this e-visa system under which if an Indian national has a valid, mind it valid US or UK or Schengen visa or a visa from any of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development) countries, that Indian passport holder can apply for the Turkish visa online, fill the form online, pay the fee online, and then his or her visa will be emailed to them – the entire process does not take more than ten minutes. You don’t even have to go to the embassy or the consulate under the conditions mentioned above. Or for that matter if you have a resident permit, then also this condition applies.
How does Indian film industry drive growth for Turkey tourism?
We are working on that as well. We are supporting some really interesting and important movie projects. Normally, Turkish government provides a VAT refund for the foreign movie producers at the rate of around 18 pc, i.e., whatever a producer is spending while shooting in Turkey, 18 pc of that is refunded. So it’s a good deal – if you are spending let’s say USD 5 milion, you get USD one million back. It’s like a really good subsidy for the producers. Apart from that the ministry is facilitating shooting permissions and other things – so we are in close relationship with Bollywood and its producers. So far, I know there are some big movies that have shown Turkey as a destination for example, Ek Tha Tiger ( 2012) was shot partly in Turkey and then there was Dil Dhadkane Do (2015) – these movies have already been shot. And we are in touch with some producers for their upcoming movies but I don’t want to give the names before they come out.
Any plans for the MICE category?
Yes of course, I mean Turkey has really great facilities for the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) movement. The ministry is also supporting private sector in this context. Together with the private sector from Turkey we are participating in certain MICE events such as B2B shows, exhibitions etc. so yes this is one of the market segments that we are focussing on.
What are your targets for 2016?
For 2016, together with the Turkish private sector and keeping in mind the increasing interest from Turkish companies, we are expecting a growth rate between 15-20 pc from India to Turkey. For example at the recently concluded SATTE event in New Delhi, we had a huge stall where 37 travel agencies, DMCs, hoteliers and even Indian restaurants in Turley were with us. This shows great interest from the Turkish private sector in India.
You said that according to UN reports by 2020 the number of Indians travelling abroad will increase to upto 50 million, what do you think is the reason behind this?
The indications are showing that, for example, even if you look at the number of domestic travellers within India, it can give you an idea because most of the people who are travelling domestically, either have or will have very soon, the capability of travelling abroad. And when you look at the number of passport holders, it is huge – I read in one of the newspapers in 2013 that the number of new passports issued by the Indian government was more than 12 million. So these are some of the indicators showing the upward trend. Apart from that the economic growth of India, the expectation of the Indian people, these are all important indications showing that the number of Indian travellers will increase – it may not be 50 million as expected but definitely will be huge. Also we believe it is not the quantity but the quality that matters. The quality of Indian travellers including their expenditure abroad are some really important pointers signifying that India is a marketneeds to be tapped.