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Turkey: Rich With History

April 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.  Tourists flock to Istanbul to shop for treasures at the Grand Bazaar

Before you pique your clients' interest in the Eastern Mediterranean country, assure them that this
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 Turkey that has been blown out of
proportion," says Shimson Erenfield, co-owner of Bler Travel Inc. in Brookline, MA and just
one of nearly 20 agents who FLO USA
accompanied to Turkey.
"There are tons of destinations around the world that are much riskier
than this."

In fact, there are beliefs of Turkey that aren't just
exaggerated, they are simply false. For instance, Turkey,
a country with 77 million people (15 million in Istanbul
alone) is not in the Middle East as some people might believe; rather, it is
located on two continents, Europe and Asia.
The European portion of Turkey
is called Thrace, while the
Asian part is called Anatolia or Asia Minor.
Also start painting a beautiful picture of Turkey for clients with a clean
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 Istanbul—is arguably as European in style and
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 Turkey
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
of mouth."

Tourists flock to Ephesus to visit the home of the Virgin Mary

Must-See Cities

Cengiz Aras, president of FLO USA,
says a perfect trip to Turkey
takes about 14 or 15 days. First and foremost, a drive from Kusadasi to
Pamukkale is highly recommended, with a stop in Ephesus along the way. (Though the vastly
popular Cappadocia was not visited during our stay, it's hard to imagine any
location in Turkey that
encompasses a full serving of history, religion and landscapes more than Ephesus).

You need not be Catholic or even religious to experience a
sense of cleansing when you visit the home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus. It is a simple
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 Troy
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, Ephesus is the place to be. Large portions of
the amphitheaters, Library of Celcius and the Temple of Hadrian
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.

Swords, jewels, and other artifacts are displayed at the Topkapi Palace

"Be prepared for the diverse beauty of the
country," says Rohna McKenna of LT Travel in Brewster, NY.
"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. Istikal Street in
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 Turkey if you looked at all the people on the
streets, in the bars and on the sidewalks; it felt like London or some other busy metropolitan area.

Attractions in Turkey include the statues at the Hippodrome

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.

Attractions in Turkey include the Blue Mosque

Be a smart traveler: Turkey, like any foreign
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 Turkey,
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 Istikal
is highly recommended. The rooms are small,
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 Antalya. Though many bathrooms in Turkey, especially the showers, were incredibly
smaller than they are in the U.S.,
this was not the case at Marmara Antalya, a five-star property. Visit
for more information.

Both hotels offer 10-percent commission. Call FLO USA
representatives for further booking information.

Qualifying a Turkey Client

Here are some questions agent Karl Tibbetts of American
Passenger Travel, based in San Antonio, TX, recommends all agents looking to sell Turkey ask their clients before deciding whether
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 Turkey," Tibbetts says.

He doesn't recommend Turkey for children, noting it a
trip for mature adults. Also, clients should stay hydrated, so alcohol
consumption should be kept at a minimum.

Bright Future

According to numbers provided by the Turkish Culture and
Tourism Office, tourism revenues make up about 24.5 percent of the country's
export revenues. Turkey'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 Turkey, up from
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 Turkey," says Barb Jones, owner and manager
of Celebrity Travel, based in Morrison,
and specializing in ecotourism
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
very safe."


Aras says FLO USA,
based in Florida, sends about 1,800 to 2,500
people a year to Turkey.
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 Turkey is
earthquake capable, but the next major earthquake isn't expected until 30 years
from now.

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
currency in Turkey
is the lira ($1 equals about 1.4 lira).

Direct flights to Istanbul
are available from major U.S.
cities such as New York; it takes about 10
hours to travel from John F. Kennedy International Airport
in New York.
The primary carrier of such flights is Turkish Airlines, an affiliate of
American Airlines. Travelers will arrive at the Istanbul Airport,
the country's major international airport located only about 20 minutes from
the city's most vibrant area.

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