As Turkey adjusts its strategy with the West and focuses more on the East, it is also set to expose more of its market to Eastern countries, and China is one of its important targets. This year marks the Turkish Tourism Year in China. Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy recently met with a Chinese media delegation in Istanbul and answered questions on Ankara's plan to attract more Chinese tourists and investors. Following are excerpts.

Q: In the first eight months of this year, 250,000 tourists from China visited Turkey. Are you satisfied with this number? What measures will there be to promote Turkey among Chinese tourists?

A: The number is 250,000 from January to August, and will rise to 450,000 by the end of this year, which means a growth of more than 90 percent. I am satisfied with the growth. For such a big market as China, the potential hasn't been fully tapped. 

As for measures to promote tourism, we have been in close engagement with the Chinese side, including the embassy and other overseas institutions to explore feasible measures. We've also made a detailed incentive plan. For example, in 2019, if Turkish tour guides cannot meet the demand, we may grant permit, short-term or for a set period, to Chinese citizens to work as tour guides. In two cities that Chinese tourists favor the most - Istanbul and Cappadocia - direction signs in Chinese will be set up. We may open more Chinese restaurants and may also build Chinese food streets. "Chinese table," an office for addressing the problems of Chinese tourists when they are in Turkey, will be launched.

Safety is an issue that everybody cares for. But I want to tell you of a few signs that suggest safety is no longer under threat in Turkey. The security situation in the Middle East is close to be dealt with thoroughly. The refugees that we started to accept in 2015 have been properly settled. Terrorist incidents that Turkey experienced in 2015 have been nearly solved. Even some of the most dangerous places have been safe in the last one year. There have been no major terrorist incidents for a long time in Turkey.

Q: The Turkish government is trying to revive traditional culture. We saw a huge mosque being built in Taksim Square. In the future, how will the Ministry of Culture and Tourism that you lead strike a balance between reviving traditional culture, including religious activities, and secular trend that Turkey has adhered to all the time?

A: There are many mosques in Turkey. One mosque in Taksim Square doesn't count too much. We notice that the perception about Turkey has been misguided. This misguidance even happened within Turkey, as can be seen from the failed coup of July 15, 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has placed no restrictions on people's lifestyle. As far as I know, he only opposes one thing, which is smoking.

Q: Politically, Turkey will no longer only lean to the West, but tilt more to the East. What about culture? Will it look to the West or the East, or seek a balance?

A: Turkey is a melting pot. It connects the Middle East, Asia and Europe and dwells in a diverse culture. We are a country that extends a helping hand to countries in great adversity, for example, Syria and Iraq. We offered great help to refugees and immigrants from there. In the short term, Turkey is undergoing testing times and facing hardships because of such aid, but in the middle and long term, it will benefit us greatly. Our nation and civilization have lived on this land for more than 1,000 years. Till now, we have always been a hub linking different civilizations. Our neighbors have been there in the past, are there now and will be our neighbors in the future. Therefore, we eye not five or 10 years, but 100 years or even longer when making policies. In short, Turkish people have vision of the West and vitality and passion of the East.

Q: There are more and more Chinese tourists visiting Turkey. What's your impression of them? What's your advice to them? 

A: In fact, Chinese tourists to Turkey are not enough. I haven't had enough opportunity to observe them. This year, tourists from all over the world coming to Turkey reached 42 million, and Chinese tourists only account for 1 percent of that number. We are starting to engage with them and are studying their interests. We haven't understood them that much.

Turkey has values beyond culture. I will recommend that they visit not only tourism sites, but also experience Turkish culture, lifestyle, entertainment and nature. I believe if you approach it from different angles, you will have more different experiences. Once you experience the true side of Turkey, you will visit more frequently.

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