Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia Restoration: A Boost for Turkish Tourism

In a recent press conference held at the Atatürk Cultural Center in Istanbul, the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy shared insightful updates on tourism data and the ongoing restoration of the the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi).

He assured that the Hagia Sophia will remain open to both visitors and worshippers throughout the restoration process, particularly the replacement and repair works on the main dome’s covering.

Keeping Turkish Tourism Thriving

Ersoy highlighted a significant increase in visitor numbers, with a jump from 40.2 million in the previous year to 45.2 million by the end of September. He emphasized the country’s consistent growth in tourism, month by month, compared to previous years. However, he pointed out that the focus is shifting from the sheer number of visitors to achieving targets in per capita overnight income and total revenue.

The average length of stay has seen a slight decrease, with a drop from 10.3 nights in the previous year to an estimated 9.8 nights for this year. Ersoy attributed this change to the global economic crisis, high inflation following the pandemic, and the significant number of visits from Turks living abroad.

A Commitment to Quality and Sustainability

Ersoy shared the ministry’s efforts in enhancing product diversity in tourism, leading to an increase in the average length of stays. He proudly noted the rise in per capita spending from 65 USD in 2017 to an expected average of 100 USD for this year. The ministry is also working towards ensuring all tourism accommodations are certified by the ministry, with an expectation that the entire lodging sector will be under ministry supervision by the end of 2024.

In terms of education, Ersoy announced the upgrade of tourism vocational schools to technical high school level, in partnership with the Ministry of National Education. This initiative aims to provide students with language-focused education and practical training in hotels, enhancing their employability and income during internships.

Culinary and Cultural Highlights

Ersoy also touched upon the importance of gastronomy in tourism, announcing the upcoming inclusion of new Turkish cities in the Michelin Guide. He underscored the ministry’s commitment to sustainability, with nearly 7,000 hotels completing the sustainability criteria process.

Addressing the recent legislation on short-term rental of tourism-oriented residences, Ersoy clarified the conditions and exceptions, emphasizing the need for a permit from the ministry.

A New Chapter for Hagia Sophia: Entrance Fee for Tourists

Turning his attention to the Hagia Sophia – Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi, Ersoy outlined the restoration plans and the visitor management strategy set to be implemented from January 15, 2024. This plan aims to enhance visitor experience and security, efficiently managing crowd density and ensuring a serene environment for worshippers. Turkish citizens will continue to have free access to worship, while foreign visitors will be subject to an entrance fee for touristic and cultural visits from January 15, 2024.

In conclusion, Ersoy’s address painted a vibrant picture of Turkey’s cultural and tourism landscape, showcasing a nation that is resilient, innovative, and deeply committed to preserving its heritage while fostering sustainable growth in tourism. (AA)

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