Interview with ArabNews: New Era For Tourism and Relations Between Türkiye and Saudi Arabia 12.06.2022

In terms of looking to the Saudi Arabia- Türkiye relations, we shouldn’t talk about the economy or percentages of the contributions, we should be very close to each other, we should be very strategic partners.

Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of Republic of Türkiye, Serdar ÇAM gave an interview to ArabNews newspaper in Jeddah, about Türkiye's tourism strategy and increased relations between Türkiye and Saudi Arabia.



Today, we are at the UNWTO Summit in Saudi Arabia. It was a closed session. We have no idea what happened inside. We want to hear from you. What is Turkey’s contribution in this organization?

First of all, to your broadcast I’d like to say Selam and greetings to all my brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia. I’m very happy to be here and thanks to the Minister of Tourism and His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Al Khateeb had invited us. We have been received wonderfully here. We had a meeting today. Of course, in these kinds of international organizations, many issues are coming to the table through the different countries’ proposals. Inşallah, as Türkiye, be very active in tourism sector, we are always trying to support such events and activities. Of course, these kinds of organizations are strategically important to be in with people related to the tourism sector, including representing the investors, the economy and also customers. And also, we have the responsibilities to our nations to serve in terms of economy, by this kind of important event we come together and exchange our experiences and know each other. We can increase our capacities bilaterally between countries.


It came at a time post-Covid and it was really helpful for economy, so how did the Covid affect you and how do you plan to overcome these circumstances?

Like in other countries, we have been negatively affected for two and a half years. Every country has taken the necessary steps to overcome this pandemic. It was maybe the first time in recent years in the world that more than 7 billion people have been affected directly or indirectly by this disease. Therefore, it was also difficult days for everybody, especially for the investors running business in this sector. But, through the government’s decisions and taking necessary supports and incentives and some proportions, we have managed to overcome. Besides, we have tried to turn this pandemic into an advantage because we have asked the sector to increase their quality, like asking special certificate systems and also concentrating on more safe tourism, green tourism and so on. We had many high-quality investors in this sector, but also for the middle-class and low-class people, we have managed to make them be active and dynamic to overcome all kinds of risks and difficulties in the future. So, after all, in last year, we have taken very big action and became number one in the increase numbers of tourists coming from abroad. So, this was an advantage that we have came to a very low level, but starting from last year, we have managed and this year, we are expecting a very good result and up to year 2020, we have certain expectations.

So, can we say like the traffic of tourism is coming back to pre-pandemic levels?

Yes, that’s right. We have already came last year tourist numbers. This year, we are going to pass this. There is a hub in this region, so because of the opening of the region’s largest airport, Istanbul Airport, we are connecting the many continents in this region. So, although many tourists are passing from Turkey by connections from Istanbul, but also most of them are trying to stay a couple of days in different cities in Turkey.

Can you tell me what’s the contribution of tourism in the national GDP?

Contribution of tourism in our national GDP is always increasing. We are expecting that this year to have a high income contribution to our GDP. it is going to increase more than 10% up to 15% contribution.


Can you tell me about employment in the tourism sector? How many people are taken from Turkey?

This is the most crucial part. Our Minister has taken necessary steps starting before the pandemic situation because you need good quality personnel knowing foreign languages, having the special capacities in dealing with guests. So, we have made a very special agreement with the Ministry of Education. We started converting the technical schools into tourism schools, which bring the special obligatory curriculum inside it, and many young people have been trained in recent years, starting from the high schools and special departments have been opened in universities. We have about 207 universities and more or less each university have also supported the sector in teaching and promoting this area, but still we need to increase capacity of the young people, because the sector is increasing enormously. Therefore, each year we have to bring thousands of people to this system. Of course, during the pandemic period time, recent two and a half years, the most annoying part was losing human resources capacity. Every company was expecting to protect their human resources, because if they cannot work very effectively, if they cannot get the necessary income, they can transfer to other sectors. So, they wanted to protect these well-trained people. We are, each year, bringing special programs to get young people from the universities and from high schools according to the demand of the hotels. Of course, there are some coming from foreign countries also. They are interested in living in Turkey, coming and entering the necessary training programs and taking the job in this sector.


How much are you trying to pump like as investments to target tourists coming to Turkey? Are you planning to make investment on this target?

If you are targeting good scores, you have to increase your capacity compared to last year, you have to do something so that if you will be active and dynamic in the competition. Starting at the end of the year 2019, we have established a new promotional agency, Turkish Promotion and Tourism Agency, which works and runs in a private sector system. The head of the Promotion Agency is Minister of Tourism and Culture, but the rest of the board members are coming from the private sector by election and representing the companies who are active in Türkiye. So, they are working very professionally, working with private companies, bringing necessary projects to the agency, higher people through the private sector and working with target countries very effectively. So, the last 3 years, thanks to this agency, we have managed to be very successful in gaining advantage against pandemic problems and in five continents, we are promoting activities and making Turkey to be known well by the people who are interested in. So, not only just like we say Turkey is concentrated on seaside or beach tourism, but also concentrated on different items. So, our target is not just for a seasonal part, but for twelve months in 81 cities and all the parts of the country. So, Türkiye is really trying to bring different types of tourism incomes like cultural events, music festivals, some art activities, gastronomy, food, sports, natural areas and many other topics. So, because of this reason, there is an enormous demand, enormous increase in yearly basis.

Can you be specific in the amount of investments you are putting for that target? Like how much budget is allocated for the tourism investments?

Last year, we received about 30 million tourists and 25 billion dollars income from tourism. This year, we are expecting about 50 million tourists and about 40 – 45 billion dollars income from tourists abroad. Of course, we also have local tourists travelling in Turkey. So, this is also another economy. At least double of this amount is coming from the local people also. Our target in 2028 is 100 million tourists and about 80 billion dollars of income from tourism. 



What’s the percentage of Saudi tourists coming to Turkey before the pandemic and what’s the aim now?

İnshaallah, the two brotherly countries, of course, Turkish people are namely very good tourist hospitality because of our religion; I’m always saying that the world’s largest conferences, symposiums always occur in this holy land. Haj is the greatest in the world. All Muslims are coming, exchanging their ideas, increasing their friendships. Therefore, many tourists will come for Umrah reason, Haj reason, and I’m sure that with the other reasons with sea sides and many other art events, so on. After our President His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Riyadh, meeting with the Royal Highness will start a new era, we expect that our brothers and sisters are going to come nowadays, we are waiting for an approval that because of the Covid-19. The season has opened, we will be very happy to host and meet our brothers in Türkiye. At the beginning, maybe the percentage wouldn’t be high, but it doesn’t matter.

In terms of looking to the Saudi Arabia- Türkiye relations, we shouldn’t talk about the economy or percentages of the contributions, we should be very close to each other, we should be very strategic partners. Of course, brothers and sisters in the families in some time intervals, different approaches, some time they might not understand each other, but it is a kind of temporary times and a permanent march, a permanent futuristic approach. Two brotherly countries should be active, dynamically work together because our region is not so easy. We are both fighting with terrorists here, fighting with many other issues in the region. Therefore, to provide our borders, to provide the necessary prosperity and peace in our countries and in our region, the two strong countries should be together.

Therefore, tourism is another kind of sought subject to make the politicians come together, and meet each other. So I believe that, in the coming future, the two brothers should work in this sector very dynamically. We are expecting a certain amount of brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter, either one person or one million people, Türkiye is your second home. It is your second place. I believe that this land is also a holy place for all Muslims we belong to this area, and elhamdulillah, day by day, each year the Saudi Arabia is really serves Muslims during the Haj season, during the Umrah season, making perfect services, exchanging good relations and improving the relations between the Ummah and the community of the Muslim countries. So this was another opportunity for many countries to be together in time differences.

Indeed, Turkey is a dear country to all Saudi people and we look forward to be visiting in the near future. I would like to wish you a pleasant stay in your second home, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate every single insightful words.

Thank you very much and I would like to also thank you again for inviting me to your program, best wishes and good luck to all our brothers and sisters here. We wish that Saudi Arabia will be successful on all items and we will be also be a very important player in tourism area. We will always be with our brothers and sisters in terms of these.