Toronto has one of the most multicultural make-ups in the world. With 100s of different backgrounds, and cultural neighbourhoods to match, one can visit and experience a world’s worth of culture in one city, an idea foreign to other destinations of less diverse surroundings.
In Travel from Toronto we check out the relations between other countries and our own while visiting the neighbourhoods and communities here in Toronto that those countries represent.
In our first post we visited the Country of Turkey. Turkish Airlines has been flying from Toronto to Istanbul since 2009 and I was lucky enough to be able to make the trip as well as chat with the Ambassador to Turkey on my flight. The ambassador and the flight crew were very accommodating and it was great to chat with Ambassador Tuncay Babali who had so much knowledge on relations between our two countries.
Turkey is home to some of the oldest civilizations on Earth. Ancient cities like Ephesus date back to before 2000 BC and were inhabited by over 500,000 people.
Much like Toronto is now one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, Istanbul was early on a gathering of many people of different cultures who participated in trades between Asia and Europe as well as Africa, located across the Mediterranean Sea. Istanbul still to this day is located part in Europe and partly in Asia.
On top of the great History, Turkey is home to many great markets for those looking for a good deal. Some of the biggest draws to the country are their Bazaars, spice markets and shop lined streets.
The Ambassador was good enough to tell me more about the relations between Toronto, Canada, and the country of Turkey.
Here is our conversation as well as photos from the trip.
How much immigration is there from Turkey to Canada.
To Canada in general we say there are roughly 60,000 Turkish background citizens. People whose background is Turkish should be around another 10,000, but we don’t have a definitive figure for that.
27,000 of those Turkish people are living in Toronto alone – Toronto is such a great hub and is the greatest city in Canada on many fronts. Its Arts and culture centres, a great air HUB for many destinations and it is a vibrant city. It is growing, you can tell just by observing it. You don’t see that much activity in other cities in Canada. Turkish people love it there (in Toronto). The climate is milder than many places in Canada. Just a few hours drive you can get to great wineries of Niagara falls. I think there is something that resonates with Turkish people there.
What are some of the biggest trades between our countries?
With Canada actually we had just less than a $billion trade until 3 years ago. Once Turkish Airlines started at the end of 2009, beginning of 2010, trade steadily picked up. At one point in 2011 it grew 50%. Currently it is $2.5 billion. I must say that this is just a fraction of what we can achieve. My country, depending on the statistic of your choosing, according to IMF it is 16th , according to world bank it is 17th biggest economy globally. This is relatively speaking a new phenomenon for us, it happened more or less in 12 years time. We were able to triple our per capita income and GDP. because of these successes, Turkish people, and the government, believe we can have the top 10 economies of the world by our centennial in 2023.
For that, Canada has a lot to offer. You can be a trillion, trillion and a half economy. What is called the middle income trap. One needs to develop more robust synergies with the driving forces of the global economy. Canada certainly is one of those countries being a G8 member as well as a willing partner. In terms of business deals, culture and education as well. This is only the beginning, their are lot of complimentary elements between Turkey and Canada.
One of the biggest student destinations is Toronto. We have 8,000 students in Canada and most of those are in Toronto. Being able to learn two languages at the same time is a big pull.
How many tourists to Turkey from Canada each year?
To be exact it was 198,000 in 2012. This was 50,000 more than 2-3 years ago. This has to do with the increase in flights. Air Canada just started direct flight on June 4th and between them and Turkish Airlines you can fly direct to Istanbul 5 times a week. Both companies are enjoying over 95% fullness rates. Air Transat (also) wants to fly at least twice a week.
Also Turkish Airlines would like to increase flying frequencies, wanting to see flights go to Toronto and Montréal twice daily.
What are ways people can increase tourism to Turkey?
From my end, I asked my ministry to facilitate appointing a stand alone country tourism and cultural consular here. That will happen. We have a very dynamic and young tourism minister who has International growth experience, similar to our prime- minister, It is up to him now to name a person, and to finalize a decree.
What our office will do is team up with turkish airlines and other tourism organizations in canada and they will devise a country specific target. What we did in the US was participate in travel fairs, culinary art exhibition, wine tasting, cultural festivals, turkish art performances, music groups, etc. The next thing I think we should have is big exhibitions showcasing all the richness of the Turkish culture.
Teaming with big museums of fine art and bringing successful exhibitions like in the UK, journey of the turks, ottoman calligraphy, or showing our best musical. One is coming early november Fire of Anatolia Group. they will perform twice in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. I strongly suggest not to miss those shows. One of a kind cultural dance performances from traditional to modern.. You will see the dynamism and diversity of our culture and how we celebrate our experiences in life as Turks.
Machinery parts and steel products from us to Canada. We import agriculture from Canada, as well as livestock, grains, lentils. On the industrial side we import aerospace and airplane parts from Canada and we export ship parts and yachts.
We are building a high speed train between Istanbul and Ankara. It will take 2 hours. Bombardier is a great company. It has great potential in Turkey. We already have 3 lines operational for high speed trains.
I think that is the next phase of travel. People are really enjoying it. You can do more in less time.
Be prepared to experience Turkey. Be prepared to see a lot more than you expect. Follow what you want to see. Istanbul is a good start. The 7 holiest churches are all in Turkey now. Mentioned in the BIble. The mediterranean is also a must-see.