Unrest in other Arabic-speaking countries and changes to Turkish legislation on owning property, helped to lead to a 71 per cent increase in Arab visitors to the country in the first six months of the year compared with a year earlier.

That, in turn, propelled spending to rise 35 per cent from last year at the Istanbul festival, which ran for three weeks in June. The use of foreign credit cards at the festival rose 64 per cent.

“I think hospitality, the same culture, the same religion, delicious foods, nice weather all attracts Arab tourists to Turkey and of course Turkish TV series are one of the main factors of this trend,” said Sedat Gonulluoglu,the cultural and information attaché for Turkey in the UAE.

In May, Kivanc Tatlitug and Songul Oden, actors from the Turkish TV series Noor, launched the Istanbul festival in Dubai in a bid to attract Arab nationals from around the Gulf to the Turkish capital, which has more than 100 malls and smaller shopping centres.

Having previously been unable to buy property in Turkey,

Gulf investors can now snap up holiday homes after a law preventing from doing so was abolished this year. According to official statistics from the culture and tourism ministry, 140,000 Arab tourists visited Turkey from the Gulf region in June.


Gulf tourists have been put off visiting other countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Lebanon as unrest or political change and upheaval have caused uncertainty.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all warned their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon in recent weeks.

In June, the number of tourists to Turkey from the UAE jumped 54 per cent from a year earlier, while from Bahrain they rose 90 per cent, from Kuwait 64 per cent and from Qatar a 92 per cent.

Like Dubai, Istanbul looks to have benefited from unrest in other parts of the Middle East.

Many hoteliers in Dubai have reported occupancy levels of more than 90 per cent during Eid Al Fitr and record numbers of tourists have visited the UAE this year.

“The cultural and religious closeness between Middle East and Turkey is apparent, plus Turkey’s unique geographical positioning makes it very desirable destination indeed,” said Mr Gonulluoglu.

In total, Istanbul hosted nearly 1 million foreign visitors during the shopping festival, up 20 per cent on June last year.

Like the Dubai Shopping Festival, stores in Istanbul offered discounts, some as much as 50 per cent, on purchases. This year, the city was packed with street parties, live entertainment and concerts.

Shoppers spent 8 billion Turkish lira (Dh16.14bn) in 40 days last year at the festival and the organisers hope to have achieved sales of 7bn lira this year in just 21 days. The 2012 festival ran from June 9 to 29.

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