As the number of Indians picking out Turkey for a vacation climbs, Koray Yalkut, a tourist guide from Turkey announces, "Istanbul is just the appetizer".

As photographs behind Koray Yalkut, a tourist guide from Turkey take you around Hagia Sofia and sights of the kaleidoscopic spice bazaar, he makes an important interjection: “Istanbul is just the appetizer,” he says, before speaking about the landscape, architecture and history of Turkey, which is rapidly becoming a tourist magnet.

“If you want to see more, you have to come to our country now,” he announces after the teaser of a presentation he made, at the road-show organised by the Turkish Tourism Board along with the Turkish Hoteliers Federation to promote Turkey as a destination for ‘weddings, golf and honeymoons’.

The number of Indians coming to Turkey is only increasing with the number touching 1,00,000 last year according to Osman Ayik, president, Turkish Hoteliers Federation. “We have one million beds and in 2011, we were the sixth biggest destination in the world in terms of foreign tourist arrivals. Our association has close to 1,600 members who cater to all kinds of budgets,” he says.

Family destination

Pearl Veronica Baskar, senior executive (outbound tours), Diana World Travels, one of the travel agent present at the show, observes that families are increasingly choosing to holiday abroad, as the cost of travelling to neighbouring destinations such as Sri Lanka or Bangkok is almost the same. “Turkey has history and entertainment and both families and large groups are opting to travel there. The trend has picked up in the last two years,” she says.

“We are promoting Turkey as a stand-alone destination because there is so much to see,” says Ozgur Ayturk, culture and tourism counsellor, Turkey. According to him, though 80 percent of tourist arrivals fall in the leisure segment and 20 per cent in the MICE segment (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions), he sees huge potential for the growth of Turkey as a wedding, honeymoon and golf destination.

“Belek has more than 16 golf courses and has also been named the best golf district in Europe,” he says. Having been host to around 15 Indian weddings so far, they are looking at raising the number at least to 50 per year. For this, other than interacting with private tour operators, they are also talking to wedding planners from India. “What sets Turkey apart is that it is still “We also liaison with wedding planners from India.

Wedding locale

While Istanbul and Antalya are favourites for weddings, Cappadocia, famous for its balloon rides and cave hotels is popular with those going on a honeymoon,” adds Mr. Ozgur.

Though Turkish Airlines has daily direct flights from Mumbai and New Delhi, they are seeking permission to double their operations from Delhi and Mumbai and operate from six more destinations including Chennai. Though the months between July-August is the peak season, Turkey with its diverse climate, lends itself to tourism all round the year,” says Mr. Ozgur. And, if tourists have their documents in place, getting a visa should not take more than 24 hours, he says. For those with a valid Schengen visa, the option of getting their visa on arrival also exists, he adds. Looking to promote a long-standing relationship with India, he says that they will be hosting cultural events and film festivals.

The road-show, saw participation from over 12 hotels and several travels agents and associations in the city.

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