Ramadan offers many opportunities for vacationers

7th, 2012
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The arrival of the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims, during the summer season is expected to cause a fluctuation in the number of both domestic and foreign tourism, propelling hotel owners and the Ministry Tourism and Culture to offer various holiday alternatives for domestic and foreign tourists so as to avoid a fall in the number of tourists during Ramadan.

Instead of going on holiday, Muslims generally prefer to stay at home and rest when they fast in the summer, considering the length of the days and the hot weather conditions which make fasting harder. In addition to negatively affecting domestic tourism, this situation also leads to a decrease in foreign tourists as a result of the unwillingness of foreign tourists from Muslim countries, such as Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, to travel to Turkey during the month of Ramadan. This year, the political situation in Syria, where there is an ongoing government crackdown on opponents of the Assad regime that has led to the death of thousands so far, is another factor expected to lower the number of foreign tourists flocking to Turkey for their summer vacation.

For the purpose of minimizing the negative effects of Ramadan on tourism, many hotels have started offering various specials to attract both foreign and domestic Muslim tourists. In a phone interview with Sunday’s Zaman, the general manager of Club Familia, an alternative tourism facility in İzmir’s famous resort town of Çeşme, Ruhat Ülgen Cengiz, stated that they are hoping to attract more tourists during Ramadan by offering facilities that have an atmosphere in which guests can feel as if they are in their own home. “Our wish is to bring a new understanding of Ramadan as part of which people can experience a blend of modernism and the tradition of the old days of Ramadan,” explained Cengiz. Emphasizing the concept of “family,” the hotel plans to organize group prayers, put on performances of Karagöz and Hacivat, or Turkish shadow plays, and Sufi concerts. In addition, the hotel is offering a nearly 60 percent discount during Ramadan, with the expectation of ending the holy month with a 60 percent occupancy rate.

The Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture is also seeking ways to increase the number of tourists during Ramadan and intends to introduce the concept of “Ramadan in İstanbul,” according to Tourism Investors Association (TYD) head Turgut Gür. Topkapı Palace in Sultanahmet, the historic heart of İstanbul, and Eyüp Sultan Mosque are among the places the ministry wishes to put emphasis on in transforming İstanbul into an important cultural capital during Ramadan. Gür added that the aim of the ministry is to keep the memory of the old days of Ramadan alive, while also contributing to domestic and foreign tourism with the anticipation that faith tourism is a great opportunity to prevent the loss of tourists during the holy month of Ramadan. However, a 5 percent decrease in the number of tourists is still anticipated, which means there will be approximately 800,000 fewer tourists when compared with other summers.

Many Muslim tourists choose the Aegean region, where the cool sea breeze is a major factor in the popularity of hotels during the summer months. Resorts catering to conservative clients especially provide some special services such as separate facilities — beaches, pools and massage salons — for men and women, with many Muslim tourists preferring such locations. It is expected that the popularity of such resorts, also known as alternative tourism destinations, will increase during Ramadan both because of the opportunities they offer such as congregational prayers and diversified services for iftar (fast-breaking meal) as well as discounts.

Resource: Today’s Zaman

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