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The need to produce high-added value tourism products and establish novel tourism policies to sustain later on locally produced experience-based tourism and extrovert tourism enterprises, is strictly interwoven with the need for collaborative networks and strategic partnerships at national and transnational level.

At national level, TOURiBOOSTinvolves academic and business actors in the country activating skilled workforces to design experience-based products and services. By these collaborative networks we will be able to deliver five main outcomes:

• Re-activation of human capital by intense know-how transfer of innovative practices from the academic actors to the operating tourism actors

• Cooperation between academic actors, field practitioners and tourism SMEs to generate product process innovation in tourism

• Enhanced planning capacities of tourism SMEs towards their uptake by key tourism markets with new products and services for the connected consumer market

• Local authority empowerment by diffusing policies regarding heritage management and tourism planning

• Strengthening the ties between Public-Private-Third Sector actors towards the development local and regional strategic partnerships.

One of the most important mission of TÜRSAB is to support industry developments and travel excellence by setting standards of professionalism and ethical conduct of its members conducting a wide range of events that are not just limited to the biannual TÜRSAB travel fairs. These include seminars and enrichment workshops to educate members, as well as familiarisation tours to bring members up to speed with product, market and operational knowledge developments. In order to foster growth and increase capabilities, TÜRSAB also facilitates relevant business partnerships and networking sessions among tourism stakeholders.

In terms of TOURIBOOST Project’s main outcome at national level, TÜRSAB organized its first stakeholder workshop to introduce the Project and get the support of stakeholders throughout the Project. The main topic is to decide which tourism assets need to be focused on to bring them into light in Turkey.

Turkey, which has a high potential for tourism development and offers different types of tourism, is among the top 10 countries in international tourist arrivals and among the top 17 countries in international tourism receipts. However, as a result of mass-tourism activities in Turkey, we face a mass concentration at Mediterranean and Aegean coastal areas, a distorted urban development, a lack of infrastructure, environmental problems and lack of skills of tourism stakeholders. In addition, the rapid growth of the tourism industry has transformed tourism trends and policies. The current trends in tourism show that tourists seek more interaction, more exploration of other cultures, more experience, more emotional connections, and more authenticity. Turkey has various natural, cultural, and historical resources, and it is known as a major center of attraction for foreign tourists. In recent years, Turkey has shifted to special interest types of tourism by adopting a sustainable approach to tourism and by distributing tourism activities throughout the year.

In the first phase of the workshop we discuss about tourism plans and policies related to cultural heritage in Turkey especially in terms of hidden tourism assets concept. Turkey has been positioned as more a sun, sea, and sand destination than a cultural destination. According to the Five Year State Development plans as well as past and current tourism plans for Turkey such as Tourism Vision 2023, cultural tourism is seen more as an alternative and secondary type of tourism for Turkey. Most of the stakeholders claim that, because of this reason it is perhaps a missed opportunity for Turkey given its rich and unique cultural resources since Turkey can offer unique, positive and memorable cultural experiences for culture-core and culture-peripheral tourists. In order to achieve this, it is essential to symbolize and rejuvenate unique cultural resources so that innovative cultural experiences can be offered. In return, such original and vibrant experiences can better differentiate Turkey as a destination from its competitors. Practical implications are really important to start that change, and TOURİBOOST Project is one of the starters in that aspect bringing stakeholders together to work collaboratively to get a concrete impact at the end.

Stakeholder presentation at TÜRSAB WORKSHOP
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Stakeholders insights


Due to the rapid growth of the tourism industry worldwide, many destinations now compete in the marketplace globally and the competition among them is fiercer than ever. This puts much pressure on destinations to find better and unique ways to compete and differentiate product offerings from other destinations. Creating a sustainable competitive advantage has therefore become an important topic for many destinations, including Turkey. Although this is a notable achievement, one may question which resources and factors have played a key role in this rapid development. Additional questions put in place in the workshop such as: Has Turkey used its rich and diverse cultural resources for tourism development? What type of tourism plans and policies have been developed in Turkey to promote cultural heritage tourism? Did these plans have a noticeable effect on the tourism industry as a whole?

In this respect, it can be said that having rich and unique cultural resources can be a comparative advantage, which may not create a sustainable competitive advantage alone for a destination. However, using rich cultural resources and combining or packaging them with other tourism products and services will assist the destinations to offer positive, unique, and memorable experiences, which in return can lead to developing a competitive advantage for destinations. Referring back to the dynamic capabilities view, if a destination wants to utilize cultural resources, it does not only need to offer cultural resources and experiences such as new unique cultural shows, entertainment, and events but also constantly innovate and create new ones.

When it comes to discuss the problems and lack of skills in terms of tourism Turkey has been facing major challenges and problems despite this impressive growth, the tourism industry. Some of these problems include seasonality, heavy reliance on summer vacationers, low occupancy. rates, high dependency on foreign tour operators, transportation challenges, insufficient infrastructure, lack of qualified staff, attracting mainly lower income tourists, and the effects of national and global crises. One of the most important of those problems is unsuccessfull tourism education. As in many developing countries, the educational system struggled to keep up with the demands of the rapidly developing tourism industry in Turkey. The educational institutions were not able to provide the necessary human resource base for the growing industry, both in terms of the number of staff or the quality.

Private entrepreneurs started to invest in the development of tourism establishments, including hotels and as a result, the bed capacity of the industry increased rapidly. However, the capacity of the educational institutions did not grow as rapidly and was insufficient to educate the required number of people for the tourism industry. This problem with human resource and skill gaps was a clear result of the marketing and supply oriented approach to tourism planning. Investigation of the development plans shows that the main objectives of the plans were to increase tourist arrivals, tourism receipts and bed capacity, and to develop and implement marketing campaigns. Although human resources are a very important element in tourism businesses, human resources development did not feature significantly in the development process for tourism. Many graduates from tourism schools did not want to work in the tourism industry.

This problem with recruitment is generally related to the prevailing working conditions in the tourism industry. Working conditions have an effect on tourism students’ attitudes towards working in the tourism industry. The industry has been characterised by long and inappropriate working hours, family unfriendly shift patterns, low salaries, stress, poor quality of life, limited free time for self or family, poor career structures, informal recruitment practices, a high level of labor turnover, and low membership and recognition of labour union. Tourism educational institutions have a number of problems that need to be addressed. An insufficiency of training, equipment, and facilities, and curriculum related problems are the main issues in vocational secondary schools. A lack of qualified teaching staff; lack of, or insufficiency of training, equipment, and facilities; and a lack of alignment between the curriculum and industry needs are the main problems.

In this workshop, several cultural development zones are proposed by the stakeholders to get focused on the project, which include Phryg, Troy, Aphrodisia, Sogut, Cappodicia, Hittite, Urartu, and Gap culture zones. In addition, this document proposed seven development corridors, which include Olive, Winter, Faith Tourism, Silk Road Tourism, Black Sea, Plateau, and Thrace Cultural Corridors. Proposing such cultural zones and corridors is a commendable effort. It is certainly essential to identify and analyze expectations and demographic characteristics of potential cultural tourists who visit or may visit Turkey for cultural tourism, and based on their characteristics and expectations, such zones, corridors, and specific cultural tourism products can be developed.

A number of conclusions emerge from the aforementioned workshop discussions and their discussions. First, it is evident that Turkey has rich and unique cultural resources. Tourists intending to visit Turkey can participate in numerous cultural activities listed above or may choose just one particular cultural attraction or event. In relation to time, Turkey offers both historical resources and present contemporary cultural themes and events.

Based on the discussions, it can be said that it is not evident that Turkey has developed clear plans or policies to develop cultural tourism with the collaboration of stakeholders. Innovative strategies are essential to innovative tourism products so that sustainable competitive advantage can be created. In other words, Turkey does not only need to offer rare, inimitable, and unsubstitutable cultural tourism experiences but also constantly improve and innovate such experiences and stakeholders’skills. This can give Turkey a chance to differentiate its offerings from other competing destinations.

Stakeholders must be included in the tourism policy decisions and stakeholders’ needs and interests are equally regarded.

At the end of the workshop TÜRSAB assigned some stakeholders to be in close contact with Project partners to contribute to the Project with their best throughout the Project and TÜRSAB will perform the project activities together with the support of these stakelholders. Some of them even will attend to the transnational meetings, multiplier events and the dissemination activities of the Project.
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“Funded by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union. However, European Commission and Turkish National Agency cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”