Monday, July 21, 2008

Turkey uses religion to lure tourists

Turkey uses religion to lure tourists - The National Newspaper
Forget about sun, beaches and all-inclusive hotels. The hottest travel trend in Turkey is religious tourism, as such sites as the house of Mary, mother of Jesus, the church of the original Santa Claus and the ancient hometown of St Paul are attracting a growing number of visitors.

Although Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country today, many important events in Christian history and tradition took place in Anatolia, a heritage that authorities and tour operators have identified as a source for additional visitors and revenue.

“These are different tourists from those you find in [beach hotels in] Antalya,” said Fugen Kolsal, the owner of Oktogon Tourism, a travel agency in Istanbul that specialises in “biblical tours” and other offers for visitors interested in the history of early Christianity. “They are older, more conservative, they are open for the country and its people, they have more money, and they reach places where normal tourists will never go.”

A Religious Tourism Project, conducted by Turkey’s tourism ministry, aims to “increase the number of visitors to important centres” of religious history, most of which are connected to Christianity, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

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