Economic Benefits Are Fewer Than Claimed

While the development of mass tourism has been encouraged mainly for the economic advantages it was presumed to bring, in reality, the economic benefits have not risen to the expectations. Although the number of tourists visiting Turkey has increased year after year, revenues from tourism are still below expected values (Gezici et al. 2006; Yarcan 2007; Tosun 1998). This is because mass tourism is characterized by lower spending per tourist, so, in order to stay competitive, Turkey has engaged in bidding wars with other countries in the Mediterranean Basin, which has benefited more the multinational corporations organizing the tourist flow rather than Turkey (Reid 2003; see also Tables 2 and 3 in Chap. 1).

In order to keep prices low, Turkey also started to offer all-inclusive packages. For example, more than 80 % of international tourists visiting Antalya prefer to buy all-inclusive package tours (Euractive 2010; cited in Duman and Tosun 2010). While this type of high-quality holidays has attracted an increasing number of international tourists to Turkey’s beaches, it has also significantly squeezed profits (Duman and Tosun 2010). This practice of keeping prices low and increasing the number of international tourists has had two major consequences. On the one hand, it has increased dependency on mass tourism, which has subsequently reinforced lower and lower prices (Yarcan 2007). On the other hand, Turkey has been affected by its international image as a cheap mass tourism destination and this label is difficult to change, in spite of the more recent efforts to promote the country as a heritage tourism destination (Alvarez and Korzay 2011; Sonmez and Sirakaya 2002). The unwanted outcome is that foreign tourist volumes will keep increasing, while foreign exchange earnings will continue to decline (Yarcan 2007). Destinations that are dependent on mass tourism face shrinking revenues (Shaw and Agarwal 2007).

The problem of squeezing revenues and profits is exacerbated by the over-reliance on foreign tour operators (Tosun 1998). For example, of all tourists who arrived to Alanya in 2007, only 11.7 % booked and organized their vacation by themselves, the rest being brought in by tour operators (Akta§ et al. 2007; cited in Tosun and Caliskan 2011). International tour operators have the power to move hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of tourists over a year. They can create and direct demand (Williams 2009) and tend to abuse their power using predatory pricing strategies (Shaw and Agarwal 2007). For example, Buhalis (2000) has shown that oligopolistic tour operators have forced hoteliers in Greece to accept contracts that reduced their profit margin so much that it started to affect the quality of their product. Turkey cannot afford to lose tourists to competing countries and is forced to give into ever-increasing demands from these foreign tour operators to lower prices (Yarcan 2007).

To reduce the dependence on the whims of foreign tour operators, many local accommodation owners have decided to establish private airlines and tour operators which they operate in the market countries (Yarcan 2007). By so doing, they are able to offer a greater variety of vacation holidays and include more cultural tours, thus increasing the number of places visited and the tourist expenditure for vacations of the same duration (Yarcan 2007).

Also, Akkemik (2012) has argued that the impact of foreign tourist expenditure on domestic production, GDP, and employment creation is rather modest because much of this expenditure is leaking out of the Turkish economy, due to the significant involvement of foreign capital. It is estimated that up to 60 % of the tourism revenue deriving from the package tours organized by foreign tour operators does not stay in Turkey (MT 1990; cited in Tosun and Caliskan 2011).

Also, often times, tourists who arrive in Turkey with a packaged tour are not encouraged to shop in small local shops but are rather directed and even transported to large, expensive souvenir shops that most often than not belong to non-local businesses (Seckelmann 2002).

Other analysts have criticized coastal regions’ over-reliance on tourism as the main driver of the local economy (Kaya and Smardon 2000). For example, tourism revenue represented 86.2 % of the GDP of Alanya in 2005, up from 20.5 % in 1980 (Tosun and Caliskan 2011). Since most tourists come from abroad, the local economy will be dependent on the state of the economy in those countries (Yarcan 2007). As Yarcan (2007: 788) has stated, “price competition and dependency on mass tourism are two interrelated problems; one contributes to the other.”

We also need to keep in mind that mass tourism in the Mediterranean basin is a seasonal activity. Most international visitors to Turkey are registered during the summer months, while during the winter time, most tourism activities in the coastal areas come to a halt. In Turkey, more than 50 % of international tourists arrive during the summer time, between June and September, and more than 70 % between May and October (Var 2001). The main problems deriving from the seasonality of tourism activities are finding and keeping a well-qualified labor force and dealing with very high tourist densities during the high season.

The development of tourism in Turkey is very uneven, with the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas being a lot more developed than the interior provinces (Seckelmann 2002; Egresi et al. 2012). This uneven tourism development has reinforced the existing economic inter-regional disparities in Turkey, with the west being a lot more developed than the east (Seckelmann 2002; Tosun et al. 2003; Tosun 2002; Goymen 2000; Tosun 1999).

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