The Arab invasion has begun. Kidding of course, but according to a new report from the Turkish ministry for culture and tourism the number of Arab tourists has grown rapidly this year. The ministry reports that visitors from qatar in the first four months of the year doubled compared to the same period last year, while visitors from the UAE grew 86% during the same period and visitors from Kuwait by 54%.
Sedat Gönüllüoglu the Turkish tourism and culture office’s attaché in the UAE, said a number of changes had sparked the influx of Arab tourists.
“We have good relationships with those countries,” he said. “The shopping is popular and there’s been a response to the Arab Spring. Lots of people who would have gone to Egypt, Syria and Libya have gone somewhere else.”
Many of the Arabs are entering Turkey without visas because of the visa-free deals signed by their respective governments with Turkey, and are coming to enjoy the discounted shopping in the new malls springing up across Turkey – not least the new Trump Towers that just opened in Istanbul the first in Europe. In order to capitalise on the shopping tourism the authorities have organised two shopping festivals in June, the first in Ankara and the second in Istanbul.
“We have the same culture and religion, so they do not feel like strangers in Turkey. Nobody has a prejudice about them. We see the Arabs as friends,” said Mr Gönüllüoglu.
Shoppers spent 8 billion Turkish lira (Dh16bn) in 40 days last year at the Istanbul Shopping Festival, and the organisers hope to achieve sales of 7bn lira this year in just 21 days. The festival hosted 5 million visitors last year and this year will run from June 9 to 29.
It is also hoped that many of the Arabs incoming will be adding property to their shopping list after the Turkish parliament this week adopted a new bill dropping the reciprocity clause from foreign ownership law and effectively allowing gulf-state Arabs to buy property in Turkey for the first time ever.