Earlier Attempts of Tourism Development
The Orient, as the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, as the source of many European civilizations and languages and as the home of great cultural diversity (Said 2003: 2), has long been a popular tourist destination for Westerners traveling to Asia Minor. By the end of the nineteenth century, the advances in transportation technologies had increased the frequency of travel to the Ottoman Land. The Orient Express, which was a showcase of luxurious and comfortable train travel for people traveling from Paris to Istanbul as early as 1883, occupies a historical place in the development of tourism in Turkey.
During the era of the republic, the first attempt was the establishment of the Travelers’ Association in 1923, which changed its name to the Turkey Touring and Automobile Club in 1930 and acted as a governmental body for many years (Roney 2011). This institute published the first road maps, touristic guides and brochures, arranged courses and examinations for tourist guides, and organized tourism-related studies, meetings, and conferences (Nohutpu 2002). The first government interest and actual involvement in tourism coincided with the establishment of a specific section in the Ministry of Economy in 1934. This was the first representation of tourism at the government level and was the body that created the National Tourism Administration in Turkey (Goymen 1998). This agency was absorbed into the General Press Directorate, which, in 1949, was reorganized and converted into the General Directorate of Press, Publication, and Tourism (Tarhan 1999). Moreover, government interest in tourism was consolidated with the meeting of the first tourism advice committee whose report constituted the basis of Turkey’s initial national tourism policy (§ahin 1990). The master program, prepared by the committee, was an important document that influenced the Tourism Encouragement Law in 1953 and even inspired the five-year development plans of the planning era instituted in 1963 (Barutfugil 1986). The law also resulted in a new licensing system that established international standards for tourism businesses. Nohutfu (2002) explains that because the economy was suffering due to the lack of an entrepreneurial class with sufficient capital accumulation and experience, tourism was defined as a response and policy solution to the economic problems of the country. Therefore, the Tourism Bank, as an organizational instrument of the tourism policy, was established in 1955 to provide funding for the private sector to establish and operate tourism facilities built by other public entities (TURSAB 1997). The bank bought and renovated some historical buildings for tourism purposes and provided credit for hotel projects (§ahin 1990). Consistent with this, the pension fund (Emekli Sandigi) was also commissioned to establish high-quality hotels in major tourism cities to accommodate the increase in foreign business and to meet selective tourism demands (Tarhan 1999).
The General Directorate of Press, Publicity, and Tourism was reorganized and upgraded to the ministerial level in 1957, at which time tourism policies were addressed and administered at the cabinet level. Accordingly, tourism became an important agenda item for the governments, both national and local, as a policy sector and was represented at the ministerial level between 1950 and 1963. Nohutfu (2002) comments that the reason for government involvement was a result of the increasing crisis regarding the balance of payments that emerged due to uncontrolled and unbridled economic liberalization policies. Therefore, the governments sought to utilize the tourism potential of the country to reduce critical shortages of foreign currency and to increase employment.