In an exclusive interview with ITB News, Cemil Hakan Kilic, general manager of Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau (ICVB), explains why he expects to see the city’s tourism industry bounce back from the third quarter of 2022.

How was tourism for Istanbul in 2021?

Over 9 million of tourists visited Istanbul in 2021. Generally, it was not exactly what we had expected in the beginning of last year but it was still better than in 2020. The number represents already over 60% of the total arrivals of 2019. The third quarter of last year recorded the highest numbers of travellers since the start of the Covid crisis.

What are the core markets for Istanbul, particularly for the MICE industry?

Europeans has always been the number one market and it seems like it will continue to be like this. This is totally normal as Istanbul is generally a three-hour flight away from European cities. Istanbul remains an extremely popular destination for inbound markets like France, Germany or the Netherlands for example. We are at the crossroads of Asia and Europe and for many countries eastwards a hub and gateway to the European continent. This explains our great appeal for the organisers of conventions, exhibitions and congresses. This positioning also makes Istanbul the perfect place to visit for long-haul travellers, who are also an important market for our city. In the future we will be targeting “new markets” such as India, South America and Australia.

What are then your expectations for 2022?

The situation will likely improve in the months to come. I am confident that the third quarter of 2022 will register the strongest rebound in arrivals. In the MICE sector, there are currently 20 major congresses scheduled to take place in Istanbul this year.

Cemil Jakan Kilic, GM Istanbul Convention and visitors Bueerreau
Cemil Hakan Kilic is since 2018 General Manager of the ICVB (Photo : LC/Cleverdis)

Could you tell us about Istanbul’s latest infrastructure related to tourism?

There is our new “greater Istanbul International Airport” which is linked to over 320 global destinations. There are even plans to add more runways to facilitate the development of this major European hub as needed. We have also opened a state-of-the-art cruise port “The Galataport” in the heart of our city in the vicinity of the famous landmark Galata Tower. The port represents an investment of US$2 billion and can accommodate multiple cruise ships. At the end of last year, we also saw the reopening of the Atatürk Cultural Centre on Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul. The new cultural complex has a total area of 95,000 m2 and integrates an exhibition centre, a congress hall as well as a library, museum, an art gallery, cafes and restaurants.

Are there any new events planned for 2022?

We will continue to promote the benefits of shopping in Istanbul s well as entertainment of the city with our Shopping Festival. Visitors can find good bargains in Istanbul in almost every aspect. We also want to promote the city’s gastronomy by launching a new food trail. And finally, we plan to draw some attention to religious tourism.. Istanbul is home to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual father of the orthodox church. This is a little known fact but Istanbul is equivalent to the Vatican for the Orthodox Christians. This is something to be promoted to especially orthodox visitors.

About: Established in 1997, the Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau is a non-profit destination marketing organisation working as a branch of Tourism Development & Education Foundation – TUGEV. An affiliation of the largest NGO of Turkey; The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce

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