|Photo by Freeimages.com/Yucel Tellici|
by Raziye Akkoc and Louisa Loveluck, The Daily Telegraph, June 07, 2016
An Airbus airliner has been sunk off the Aegean coast by Turkish officials in a bid to attract more diving tourism as the country deals with declining overseas visitors.
The Airbus A300 was put under water from the south-western resort town Kuşadası, 50 miles south of Izmir, a popular tourism destination in western Turkey, on Saturday.
It is hoped the artificial reef will attract more diving tourism.
The jet, worth 270,000 Turkish lira (£64,000), had been broken up in Istanbul in April before being sent to the town in Aydin province. The plane will attract underwater flora and fauna.
It is believed to be the largest plane - 177 feet long and a 144-foot wingspan- ever used as an artificial reef and was bought by the Aydin municipality from a private aviation company.
The mayor of Aydin said she hoped the project would develop underwater tourism in the area.
"With this project, the aim is to increase the underwater biodiversity off [the coast of] Kuşadası and to further develop underwater tourism in the area. We expect some 250,000 domestic and foreign tourists per year to come here for diving.
"With the project, Kuşadası will hopefully close this summer with the fewest losses and make the people of [the town] and the people in this business smile. In short, [it] will be a milestone for Kuşadası tourism," Özlem Çerçioğlu, Aydın metropolitan mayor, said, according to Daily Sabah, a Turkish English-language newspaper.
Turkey has previous sunk off planes, though they have been smaller. Since 2009, three have been sunk in Antalya, southern Turkey, in its Kas and Kemer districts, it was reported.
It is the largest ever sinking of a ship to create an artificial reef to attract flora and faunaCredit: Depo Photos/REX/Shutterstock Declining tourism
The number of tourists visiting Turkey declined last month to its lowest rate in seventeen years amid security concerns and tensions with Moscow. Turkey has seen tourism fall by 28 per cent year-on-year in April, with 1.75 million people arriving in the country.
The number of Russian visitors plummeted by 80 per cent in April, following a spat between Ankara and Moscow over the downing of a Russian plane last year . The two governments had traded regular barbs and Russia’s agriculture watchdog says it is considering a ban on Turkish chickens, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Tourism is vital to an economy already struggling to bear the shocks of political crises and terrorist attacks.
A similar low was experienced in 1999 when the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) warned tourists to stay away from Turkey following the capture of its leader Abdullah Ocalan. Today, those militants are striking urban centres again as part of a renewed civil war with the government in Ankara.
The declining footfall does not bode well as Turkey heads into what would usually be considered high season for resorts along the Mediterranean coast. One of the UK’s biggest tour operators, Mark Warner, has already pulled out of Turkey, amid concerns about the growing unrest in the country
In Istanbul, crowds have visibly diminished around some of the city’s most majestic sites, among them the Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica that later became an imperial mosque .
This article was written by Raziye Akkoc and Louisa Loveluck from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.