Tourism and Sustainability in Turkey: Negative Impact of Mass Tourism Development

Istvan Egresi


While some attempts to develop mass tourism in Turkey predate the 1980s, the governmental decision that is credited by most to have boosted tourism development is law number 2634 for the encouragement of tourism, enacted in 1982 (also see Chap. 2 by Yolal). This law underlined the incentives the Turkish government was willing to give to those who wanted to invest in Turkey’s tourism sector. Some of these incentives that support Law 2634 for the encouragement of tourism included (Duzgunoglu and Karabulut 1999: 12; cited in Tosun et al. 2003):

  • • Allocation of public land to investors on a long-term basis;
  • • Long-, medium-, and short-term credit lines for construction, furnishings, and operations;
  • • Preferential rates for electricity, water, and gas in priority areas and centers;
  • • Priority for the installation of communication lines;
  • • Permission to hire up to 20 % of the workforce from abroad;
  • • Some exemptions from customs duties;
  • • Subsidies for up to 40 % of the total cost of tourism projects;
  • • Exemptions of tax, duties, and fees for long- and medium-term loans used for investment;
  • • Exemption from building construction duties;
  • • Postponement of value-added taxes.

At the same time, a number of regions were selected as priority regions in which large-scale tourism developments were encouraged using the very generous incentives enumerated above (Tosun 2002). A 3-km coastal strip that runs from the

I. Egresi (H)

Department of Geography, Fatih University, 34500 Buyukcekmece, Istanbul, Turkey e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

I. Egresi (ed.), Alternative Tourism in Turkey, GeoJournal Library 121, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47537-0_3

boundary that separates the provinces of ^anakkale and Balikesir, in the north, to the boundary between the provinces of Antalya and Mersin, in the east, was prioritized for the development of mass tourism (Tezcan 2004; Gezici et al. 2006). However, mass tourism in Turkey was not reduced to coastal areas. Due to its potential to attract large masses of tourists, Cappadocia, an interior region, was also selected by the government to be part of this program (Tosun 2002).

The 1982 law turned out to be a success, with investments in tourism noticeably increasing in Turkey after this year (Gezici et al. 2006, also Chap. 2 by Yolal). While focus on mass tourism has been crucial for the economic development of Turkey, it has also attracted a lot of criticism. One major criticism was that mass tourism development in Turkey was characterized by extreme spatial and temporal concentration. Indeed, statistics show that 90 % of all international tourists in Turkey visited the coastal provinces. When analyzing the number of nights spent, spatial concentration of tourism is even clearer, with 94 % of tourist nights spent in the coastal areas, with the average length of stay being significantly longer in coastal areas than in the interior provinces. In addition, 88 % of tourism operations, 87 % of hotel investments, and 83 % of tour operators and travel agencies are also clustered in the coastal provinces (Tosun and Caliskan 2011). The problems created by mass tourism are exacerbated by the fact that most tourists visit during the warmer half of the year, especially during the high summer season. Indeed, Tosun and Caliskan (2011) have shown that 79.4 % of tourist nights by international visitors occur between May and October.

New policies were implemented starting with the 1990s, in order to better distribute tourism benefits to other regions and to use tourism as a development tool for the less economically developed regions (Gezici et al. 2006). While this reorientation may have enjoyed some limited success, most of the problems generated by mass tourism development persisted.

This chapter will critically examine the impact of mass tourism development on destination areas in Turkey, focusing particularly on the negative effects. In so doing, we do not intend to deny or minimize the benefits deriving from mass tourism development. Rather, we are making the point that mass tourism development has not been without costs and that development of new tourism operations should take these costs into account. We will examine the impact of mass tourism development from four perspectives: environmental, social, cultural, and economic.

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