Geotourism Development in Turkey and Its Issues
The first scientific studies on geotourism in Turkey were published in the 2000s by Kopman and Kopman (2004), Yildmm and Kopan (2008), Gfimfi§ (2008), Akbulut (2009), and Kazanci (2010). These studies examine the use of the concept of geotourism in Turkey and evaluate the geotourism potential in this country. Subsequently, these geotourism studies have increased awareness among scientists of Turkey’s geoheritage and of the opportunities for the development of geotourism in Turkey.
The Association for Conservation of the Geological Heritage (JEMIRKO) was organized in 2000, aiming to promote and develop an inventory of geosites. This organization has played a significant role in the development of geopark- and geotourism-related concepts such as geosite, geoheritage, geoconservation, and geoinventory (Kazanci 2010). Another important association is the General Directorate of Mineral Exploration and Research (MTA), which launched a project in 2003, aiming to determine the capacity of Turkey’s geological heritage. The main aims of this project were the preparation of an inventory of geosites, to draw up relevant maps and to organize research in the field of geotourism. Moreover, the project was supposed to determine methods for conservation and the sustainable use of the geosite (Gurler and Timur 2007).
Turkey has many archaeological, cultural, and natural attractions, which are an excellent basis for the development of geotourism (Akbulut 2014a). Among the most outstanding geosites are volcanic mountains, as well as a number of karstic, fluvial, and glacial features. Cappadocia, Pamukkale travertine, Agri (Ararat) Mountain, Nemrut Caldera, and Kapkar Mountains, for example, are of particular value for geotourism. Furthermore, geotourism is one of the core activities in geoparks. Among the most important national geopark projects worth mentioning are Kizilcahamam Geopark, Levent Valley Geopark, Narman Geopark, and Nemrut Geopark. Another geopark project, Kula Geopark, was declared a Global Geopark by the UNESCO and a member of the European Geopark Network in 2011. This geopark has played a vital role as a model for the organization of other geoparks and to increase awareness of geotourism activities in Turkey. In fact, after opening, many tourists started visiting the geopark to see the breath-taking landscapes and to understand the geological history of Turkey.
However, there are some issues affecting the development of geotourism in Turkey. Firstly, the concepts of geotourism and geopark have not yet been formally recognized in Turkey. This complicates the conservation and the protection of geosites, which are the major resources of geotourism and geoparks. Two other important issues are the lack of internationally declared geoparks (Global Geoparks) and a comprehensive geosite inventory. Such an inventory plays an important role in determining existing geoparks and in providing for the development of geotourism in Turkey. Therefore, this inventory could be considered as a preferential basis for the assessment of geosites. For this purpose, the government, a number of universities, and various civil organizations are working to create an inventory of geosites in Turkey. A further issue is the frequently ignored scientific information and the lack of basic data related to geosites in a form that can be easily understood by the public (Tongkul 2006). In this sense, special educational programs to teach children about the geological history of Turkey should be developed. Published materials, visitor centers, and national history museums could also increase public awareness. Finally, the lack of natural geosites declared as World Heritage is another concern. Goreme National Park and Pamukkale were declared World Heritage sites in 1985. Both of them are important geosites of Turkey, but the thousands of people who visit every year are interested only in viewing the natural landscapes and the cultural-historical sites. In order to consider these visitors as geotourists they should also have an interest in the geological history of these places and should be interested in learning how these landscapes were formed.