Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Saturday, 16 July 2005 15:27 UK

Tourism vital to Turkish fortunes

A cruise liner passes through the Bosporus at Istanbul
Some see Istanbul's bustle as Turkey's main attraction
Bomb attacks at Turkish tourist resorts have placed the country's booming travel industry in the spotlight.

It is not difficult to see why it might be targeted, as Spanish resorts have been by Basque separatists, by groups seeking attention through political violence.

Tourism in Turkey has long been viewed as crucial to the country's future prosperity and growth, and its value to the economy has grown steadily since the 1980s.

It is now the second largest source of national revenue, trailing only behind foreign exports.

More Turks work in tourism than in any other industry except construction.

The country's varied charms include hundreds of miles of shimmering coastlines, famous ancient ruins and a spectacular interior.

Target 2010

More than 13 million foreigners visit the country each year, with Turkey's position as the crossroads between Europe and Asia attracting visitors from a disparate range of countries.

A holidaymaker in Antalya, southern Turkey
Others head for the coast and relax a little more
The largest number of tourists are from major European nations, with more than three million Germans and over two millions Britons holidaying there each year.

But significant numbers come from Russia, the former Soviet states and new EU members like the Czech Republic.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken publicly of the importance of tourism, fronting a drive to improve infrastructure, services and international competitiveness by the year 2010.

Good prospects

Visitor numbers fell in 2002 and 2003, mainly due to apprehension around the world over the threat of war in neighbouring Iraq.

But just as Turkey emerged largely unscathed from the conflict, tourism is expected to continue growing despite instability elsewhere in the Middle East.

A tourist at the ancient city of Ephesus, southern Turkey
Those interested can visit some of the world's most famous ruins
In a report published in 2004, industrial analysts Euromonitor International praised Turkey's potential for mass tourism.

Greater economic stability, including lower inflation rates and a stable currency, were contributing to a buoyant tourism sector, Euromonitor said.

A host of key indicators were pointing up. As well as more visitors, more hotels were being constructed and bought throughout 2002/3, and the car rental industry continued to grow.

With Turkey's continuing ambitions to join the European Union dependent in part on public and political perception of its credentials among the European public, a stable, secure and profitable tourism industry is likely to remain of crucial importance to Mr Erdogan's government.

Turkish resort blast kills four
16 Jul 05 |  Europe
Kurds move to end Turkish truce
29 May 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Turkey
03 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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