If there is no democracy in a country, there is no tourism, the head of a Turkish opposition party said Wednesday.

“Tourism follows freedom. If there’s no democracy in your country, there’s no tourism. If there’s no justice in your country, there’s no tourism. If there’s no tranquility in your country, there’s no tourism,” Meral Aksener told her Good (IYI) Party’s parliamentary group.

Criticizing a recent decision to pull Turkey out of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence on preventing violence against women, Aksener said: “If you put Turkey to shame in front of the world by withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, tourism is put to shame as well.”

The 2011 convention seeks to prevent violence against women, but Turkish officials say domestic legislation already provides women ample protection, while other sections of the pact are contrary to Turkish values.

The first step to be successful in tourism is to make Turkey a country where the freedoms are enjoyed to the fullest, Aksener said.

“Libya also has beautiful coasts, but Libya couldn’t be a tourism country. Iran, Iraq and Syria have historical and cultural heritage but they aren’t countries of tourism,” Aksener said, vowing to enact a comprehensive tourism transformation in the country if her party is elected.

“We’ll locally manage and supervise the tourism sector with tourism professionals. The public and the tourism sector will work hand in hand, the sector will be managed with a common mind. We’ll maintain and develop quality in tourism. We’ll not focus on quantity but quality [in tourism],” she added.

With most of the world staying at home due to COVID-19, Turkey’s tourism revenues in 2020 totaled $12.6 billion, a 65.1% decline from the previous year, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced in January.

Tourism expenditures also fell 74.9% compared to the previous year, down to $1.1 billion.

While $954 million of total expenditures were individual spending, $151 million came from package tour expenditures.

The number of departing visitors dropped 69.5% from the previous year to 16 million people.

During her address, Aksener said Turkey had all manner of resources to become a leading country in tourism.

“We have a much richer cultural heritage than France, which is in the first place in tourism. We have much better climate and natural beauty than Spain, which is the second place in tourism. We have a cultural depth that can attract tourists from both the Christian and Muslim geographies,” she added.

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