By Ayhan Simsek and Cuneyt Karadag
Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus has commended the normalization of ties between Turkey and Germany, saying he now expects to welcome more than 5 million German visitors this year.
Speaking at a news conference held at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, Kurtulmus said: “Early booking data signals an increase in reservations by up to 100 percent compared with last year.
“This year we are hoping to welcome more than 5 million German visitors.”
He said Ankara and Berlin were now normalizing their relations after Germany left behind a contentious election campaign during which parties embraced an anti-Turkey rhetoric.
“We are now experiencing a new momentum and we hope that we will have a very positive atmosphere in our relations,” he said.
The minister underlined that despite their political differences over a number of issues, Turkey and Germany had been close partners, sharing common interests on many foreign policy topics.
Turkey has been one of the most popular travel destinations for German holidaymakers, but the number of visitors declined in recent years, due to conflicts in countries neighboring Turkey, as well as political tensions between Ankara and Berlin.
The number of German tourists visiting Turkey dropped from 5.5 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016, according to official figures. In 2017, around 3.5 million German tourists traveled to Turkey.
Fight against smuggling of historical artifacts
On Turkey’s fight against smuggling of historical artifacts, Kurtulmus said the country was chasing after ancient artifacts which were smuggled abroad.
He said the artifacts could only be returned to Turkey after a long struggle.
The Turkish minister said the country has retrieved ancient Heracles sarcophagus and a Golden Crown.
“There are 54 artifacts on the list [to be returned],” Kurtulmus said, adding: “We are following the artifacts in the host countries, we are taking legal action. If the country is open for cooperation, Turkey succeeds to bring back the artifacts in a very short time."
The Turkish minister also called on international community to cooperate in the fight against the smuggling of historical artifacts.
He said that a total of 80 ancient artifacts, which were smuggled from Iraq to Turkey, were returned to their home country without any court rulings.
Last year, Kurtulmus had noted that a total of 44 pieces had been returned in a year.