By Nilay Kar Onum
As Turkey seeks to maintain its tourism industry amid regional problems, one Antalya-based firm has hit upon a novel idea to keep people coming to the coast - a 48-seat submarine.
Guests from around the world could soon be speeding through the Mediterranean Sea at 130 feet below the waves in ‘Nemo’, a Finnish-built craft, renovated in Spain.
The chairman of the company behind the ambitious $4-million scheme, IHS Travel and Touristfly, spoke recently to Anadolu Agency:
“We wanted to bring a new and different alternative to the sector and then this project came to our minds,” says Yunus Emre Yavuzyigit.
“I believe it will revive the tourism industry. We are very hopeful of the project,” he adds.
The guided underwater tours could start in April from the coastal city of Alanya.
The exciting project comes as Turkey witnesses a decline in the number of foreign visitors from Russia and Europe in 2015. According to a data released by Turkish Tourism Ministry last month, foreign tourist arrivals dropped around 1.61 percent compared to the same period of 2014.
Antalya was one of Russian visitors’ most popular destinations until Turkey downed a Russian warplane on the Syria border on Nov. 24 last year.
After the subsequent diplomatic row, tourist arrivals have dropped significantly.
According to the ministry’s figures, numbers of Russian tourists coming to Turkey have fallen by 47 percent in December 2015, compared to the same period of the last year.
Last month’s terror attack which killed 11 German tourists in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district has also caused concerns for the industry.
However, a quick recovery is expected with the support of alternative touristic activities like the bold ‘Nemo’ venture.
The 90-minute tour aims to attract both local people and international tourists.
“I believe these tours will make a significant contribution to Turkish tourism,” says Erhan Gurcam, captain of the submarine.
“I am very excited to be part of this unique project,” he adds. “As a retired military submarine captain, it will surely be a different experience for me.”
The underwater adventures will continue throughout 11 months of the year and the company plans to enlarge the underwater tours over the coming years.
“We plan to buy more submarines to start tours in the Aegean Sea and the Marmara Sea as well in 2017,” Yavuzyigit adds.
It seems it will bring a new lease of life to Turkey’s tourism industry.