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Turkey: Rich With HistoryApril 16, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Country offers agents a host of selling points for the spiritual, history-minded client
After just one visit to Turkey, an agent will have a wealth of good information to share with intrigued travelers. Yet before teaching potential Turkey clients what the country has to offer, perhaps the first thing a client should know is what Turkey is not.
Before you pique your clients' interest in the
isn't the dangerous destination that many misinformed travelers think it is.
Soon after Travel Agent visited Turkey on part of a two-week tour hosted
by tour operator FLO USA, thoughts of a radically Muslim country prone to
terrorism threats were quickly replaced with the memories of some of the most
historical and spiritual sites in the world and some of the hospitable people
living near them.
"I feel there is an unjust fear of terrorism in
proportion," says Shimson Erenfield, co-owner of Bler Travel Inc. in
one of nearly 20 agents who FLO
"There are tons of destinations around the world that are much riskier
In fact, there are beliefs of
exaggerated, they are simply false. For instance,
a country with 77 million people (15 million in
alone) is not in the Middle East as some people might believe; rather, it is
located on two continents, Europe and
The European portion of
Asian part is called Anatolia or
Also start painting a beautiful picture of
canvas by erasing other false images they might have, such as of women being
only allowed to walk in public wearing black gowns with only their eyes
exposed. Women dress no different than American women, and the country—mainly
the major historical and socially robust city of
culture as most countries on the continent.
hasn't gotten its fair share as far as its reputation goes," Erenfield
says. "Perhaps it's been bad [public relations], but this country really
is nothing like the
most people think it is. Once you get people to go to a place and have them
realize it's a pleasant surprise, then you can get others to go because of word
Cengiz Aras, president of FLO
says a perfect trip to
takes about 14 or 15 days. First and foremost, a drive from Kusadasi to
Pamukkale is highly recommended, with a stop in
popular Cappadocia was not visited during our stay, it's hard to imagine any
encompasses a full serving of history, religion and landscapes more than
You need not be Catholic or even religious to experience a
sense of cleansing when you visit the home of the Virgin Mary in
hut; you'll enter a small room where candles are lit and an altar is set up
with a statue of Mary waiting for the next visitor to kneel down and pray.
The city of
is also recommended, although you will need to bring your imagination, as most
of the ruins are virtually nonexistent. Enough remains, though, to help picture
the lives that existed thousands of years ago with the help of tour guides,
such as chief guide Ye Sim Güris or another FLO-USA guide, Gökhan Alatas. Both
guides are highly recommended. To arrange tours, write to [email protected] for
Güris and [email protected] for Alatas.
Beauty and History
If you need more visuals,
the amphitheaters, Library of Celcius and the
all remain intact. To think you are walking on The Marble Road and touching
walls and columns that were touched by people thousands of years ago is a
feeling that can never be replaced or fully described until you have done it.
"Be prepared for the diverse beauty of the
country," says Rohna McKenna of LT Travel in
"In order to appreciate the country, you really need to go on a tour. The
roads are extremely well-marked, [but] you need a tour guide to enable you to
immerse yourself in the history of the country."
had the most opportunity for small shopping, with the Grand Bazaar housing
hundreds of vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to jewels.
Beyoglu was perhaps the best opportunity for nightlife in the area. It was home
to countless bars and shops. You would never think you were in
streets, in the bars and on the sidewalks; it felt like
The city also offers its share of history as well, as it is
home to the famous Blue Mosque—a name given by tourists to the landmark well
known for its six minarets and beautiful blue tiles. From just a few feet away
from the mosque, it did not look real. Not until your clients walk through the
front door, will they realize they aren't walking into a painting. The same can
be said for the Byzantine Basilica, built in the sixth century; it's dark and
its floors are mostly covered in water with many candles lit to show people the
way. The orange light on the water is almost meditating.
Planning a Stay
For archeological sites, comfortable shoes and a cap are
recommended. For mosques and churches, shorts are forbidden. Also, shoes need
to be removed, so wear socks. Women are required to wear headscarves and
long-sleeved shirts while visiting mosques, although this wasn't enforced
during our visit.
Be a smart traveler:
destination, does have the potential for tourist-related crime, including
pick-pocketing and con jobs, but all of those crimes can be avoided. Advise
your clients to take the same precautions as they would anywhere: never travel
alone, carry only small bills, and be very careful with whom you get friendly.
FLO-USA did an excellent job showing Travel Agent the
full offering of hotels in
a mix of three-, four-, and five-star hotels. Even the properties with small
rooms were great because of the location, which is why the Pera Marmara Hotel
(+90 212 251 4646) near
but the views of the country are gorgeous. (All rooms on the seventh floor are
recommended; the higher you are, the better the view.) Best rooms as far as the
size are at The Marmara Antalya (+90 242-249-3600) in
smaller than they are in the
this was not the case at Marmara Antalya, a five-star property. Visit www.themarmarahotels.com
for more information.
Both hotels offer 10-percent commission. Call FLO
representatives for further booking information.
Qualifying a Turkey Client
Here are some questions agent Karl Tibbetts of American
Passenger Travel, based in
is the right fit for them: Do you mind buses? Do you mind a full, hard day? Can
you do a lot of walking?
"Basically, you're talking middle-aged, adventurous
people who are in good physical condition, who are antiquity-oriented and
history-oriented and may have had a taste of
He doesn't recommend
trip for mature adults. Also, clients should stay hydrated, so alcohol
consumption should be kept at a minimum.
According to numbers provided by the Turkish Culture and
Tourism Office, tourism revenues make up about 24.5 percent of the country's
total export revenue in 2004 was $63 billion (it was $73 billion in 2005 and
$85 billion in 2006). In 2006, 532,481 Americans visited
just over 22,000 in 2005. Tourism officials believe that increased awareness
from the news and advertisements contributed to the spike in numbers.
"I have had several people express interest in
of Celebrity Travel, based in
and cultural tourism.
"This place is what I do. It has so many different
cultures to explore. It has wonderful land and it is easy to get around; it's
About FLO USA
Aras says FLO
people a year to
offers agents a 12-to-16-percent commission depending on volume. Call
888-435-6872 for more information. Tip: We recommend tipping FLO-USA guides
about $6 to $8 a day and bus drivers about $5 to $6 a day.
Fast Facts for Travelers
The seasons are very similar to the U.S. Spring runs from
mid-March through April, with the fall season beginning around October. Summer
begins in May and the winter begins in mid-November. Ninety-seven percent of
earthquake capable, but the next major earthquake isn't expected until 30 years
is about seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Upon arrival at the
Istanbul Airport, U.S. passport holders can get their visa, which costs $26.
Only cash is accepted. Although the U.S. dollar is widely accepted, the
is the lira ($1 equals about 1.4 lira).
Direct flights to
are available from major
cities such as
hours to travel from
The primary carrier of such flights is Turkish Airlines, an affiliate of
American Airlines. Travelers will arrive at the
the country's major international airport located only about 20 minutes from
the city's most vibrant area.