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article imageTurkey agrees extra holidays to boost tourism

By AFP     Aug 15, 2017 in Travel

The Turkish government on Tuesday extended upcoming public holidays to 10 days in the hope of boosting the tourism sector which has been hit by a slump in foreign visitors.

Turks were already looking forward to several days of holiday in the next weeks, with Victory Day on August 30 followed by the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice Festival from August 31 to August 4.

But there had been pressure from the tourism sector for August 28 and 29 to be declared public holidays, creating a link to the previous weekend and giving people a full 10 days off.

The Turkish cabinet agreed at a meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to extend the holiday to the full 10 days, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag announced.

He told reporters the decision was taken in the context of "helping family visits, reviving the tourism sector and having a positive effect on commerce".

The authorities are desperate to boost tourism in Turkey, a sector key to the economy that accounts for five percent of GDP and slumped due to the failed coup and terror attacks in 2016.

One way is to encourage domestic tourism, even as foreign tourists stay away.

In 2016, tourism revenue fell almost 30 percent. The number of foreign visitors to Turkey rose 14 percent in the first six months of this year but the figure had fallen by almost 28 percent in 2016.

Some influential voices, including Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, had spoken out against the extension of the holiday, worrying about the effect on economic productivity.

But the head of Turkey's Hotel Federation (TUROFED) Osman Ayik backed the longer holiday, saying it would improve people's spirits rather than hurt production.

"The tourism sector in particular is in need of a boost and motivation after hard times in the last years," he said, according to the Anadolu news agency.

"This opportunity needs to be seen in the context of supporting the sector," he added.

The argument was clinched earlier this week when Erdogan himself spoke in favour of the move, describing it as a "good step".

The long holiday means that Turks will be able to take trips from Saturday, August 26 and only return to their offices on Tuesday, September 5.

Turkey's Victory Day (Zafer Bayrami) celebrates a decisive 1922 battle in its War of Independence that led to the creation of the modern Republic in 1923.

The Feast of the Sacrifice (Kurban Bayrami in Turkish, Eid al-Adha in Arabic) is a festival celebrated throughout the Islamic world marking the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to God, who then sent a sheep to kill instead.

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