Sector reps say Istanbul poised to enter top 5 in global event tourism

Welcoming tourists from far and wide, Istanbul has become the world's favorite once again in event, cruise, culture and arts and wedding tourism. Sector representatives say Istanbul will enter the top five again in event tourism.

The country's most populous city once again comes to the fore as one of the world's most sought-after tourism destinations. The city, where tourists visit from all over the world, has become a trendy spot for event tourism and wedding organizations. With the acceleration in tourism, event venues have are booked until 2023, particularly in Istanbul. Eighteen international congresses will take place in the second half of this year with 14,222 delegates expected to participate.

Meanwhile, 30 cruise ships will drop anchor in Istanbul this year. Indians, Iranians and Azerbaijanis, on the other hand, prefer Istanbul for wedding organizations, while Russians even choose Turkey to organize birthday parties.

"We have full confidence that Istanbul will be in the top 10 and even the top five in the world ranking among cities that host the most congresses," Şekib Avdagiç, the chairman of Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau (ICVB) and Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) said. He added that an average tourist spends around $650 in Turkey, while foreigners coming to conventions spend $2,500 on average, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).

"It does not excite a Londoner to attend a congress in Paris since everything is about the same in these two cities," Avdagiç continued. "However, Istanbul thrills convention attendees. Istanbul is a different and exotic destination. The concepts of excitement, mystic, exploration and economic describe Istanbul. There is always more to explore in Istanbul than in other cities. We, as ICVB, strive to raise this awareness. We have left all negativity behind. Now the wind of tourism is blowing for Istanbul and Turkey. As ICVB, we will continue our congress candidacy efforts without slowing down."

Istanbul will welcome 20,000 tourists on 30 cruise ships this year. With the opening of Galataport in 2020, 80 cruise ships and 250,000 tourists are expected to arrive in the city.

In the second half of this year, 18 international conventions will be held in Istanbul with the participation of some 14,222 delegates. The World Congress of Gastroenterology (WCOG) will host 6,000 participants in September. The World Congress of Perinatal Medicine (WCPM) will welcome 3,200 visitors. The 18th World Clean Air Congress (WCAC) expects around 1,205 participants. In August 2020, some 3,000 people will take part in the International Geographical Congress (IGC).

Four Seasons Hotel Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel Manager Nihat Yücel said that they receive a wedding reservation in Istanbul every two days. "By the end of November, the weekends are all booked. We forward incoming requests to weekdays," he said, pointing out that those who came for wedding organizations spend more. "We are at the same level of average per capita visitor numbers in other competing countries. Spending per tourist in Spain is 1,100 euros ($1,235) and around 1,400 euros in France," he added.

Ralph Radtke, General Manager of Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, also said that interest in Istanbul has increased. "We think that the interest in Istanbul will grow with our new airport. One of the biggest shares in the promotion of this city belongs to Turkish Airlines (THY)," he said, adding that they also received wedding requests from Russia, Iran, Pakistan, the Middle East, and European countries, as well as Brazil and India.

Istanbul Shangri-La Hotel General Manager Reto Klauser said that they would surpass the 2013 figures in 2020, recalling that Turkey became a very sought-after destination for Indian weddings. "Russia prefers Turkey for events such as birthdays and anniversaries," Klauser stated.

Duygu Kuşkulu, General Manager of the event firm Crystal Concept, said that event tourism saw a quadrupled increase in the first six months compared to the previous year. "There is an increase, especially from India and Russia. South America, Spain and Italy have also started to mobilize. This year, Istanbul will host five more big wedding events," Kuşkulu noted.

Sinan Özedincik

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