By Andac Hongur, Hanife Sevinc and Etem Geylan
Turkey is “as safe as the United States,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a tourism conference on Thursday.
Speaking at the opening of the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul, Yildirim said the threat from terrorism was global.
“If we are talking about security, nowhere in the world is safe… terrorism does not recognize borders,” he said. “There is no place safe from terrorism. The fear and threat of terrorism is only useful to terrorists.
“I say it proudly and confidently -- Turkey is as safe as the United States, Istanbul is as safe as Paris, Ankara is as safe as Sarajevo, Izmir is as safe as Baku. Therefore, please do not let terrorism sabotage tourism.”
The prime minister hailed those working in the tourism sector as “volunteer peace ambassadors”.
A string of terror attacks across Turkey have threatened the country’s vital tourism industry, with the number of foreign visitors dropping from 36.8 million in 2014 to 25.4 million last year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
However, Yildirim said Turkey aimed to attract 8 million more tourists in the first stage of a campaign to boost tourism earnings to $50 billion, unveiled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.
He also stressed the non-financial benefits of tourism. “It is insufficient to evaluate tourism only from an economic point of view,” he said. “Tourism is beyond that. It is primarily the meeting of cultures, the meeting of civilizations.”
According to the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey, the country is the world’s sixth most popular tourist destination and has shown positive year-on-year growth.