Monday, June 14, 2010

Sümela service to popularize Trabzon as faith tourism destination

The Sümela Monastery, located in Trabzon province, will be open for worship for one day this year, with tourism professionals saying that the first service at the monastery could be the start of an influx of tourists traveling for faith-related purposes.

Turkish Association of Travel Agents (TÜRSAB) Black Sea regional executive board head Suat Gürkök said that Aug. 15 -- the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos according to the Orthodox liturgical calendar (also known as the Assumption of Mary) -- is a very significant holy day for Christians.

Gürkök said the monastery is an important contribution to both the country and the region’s tourism. “Opening the monastery for services [for a day] will provide some important income, but for these earnings to be high plans should be made so that visitors will stay overnight. In general, foreign tourists arrive in the morning via plane or by ship and then leave that same night. Their economic contribution to the region would be more if the infrastructure was there to encourage them to spend the night.”

“Faith tourism is a very delicate type of tourism,” Gürkök said. “With the slightest mistake, the damage caused is much bigger than the benefits the tourism brings. Although there are certain risks to it and it is usually short-lived, faith tourism contributes to the region’s economy, albeit slightly. This year’s service will be the first trial run. I hope it goes wonderfully.”

He said normally 1,500 people attend illegal, unofficial services at the monastery, saying he expected this number to double or even triple this year. He said the monastery’s infrastructure was not adequate to fit more than a certain number of people. “If the number of people attending the service is too much, perhaps this should be limited, the same way there is a quota for the Muslim pilgrimage. This first service is very important, so we’ll have an idea for the following years.”


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