People involved in the travel industry in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) came together to set up a large pop-up stand at Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre to promote North Cyprus as a holiday destination to tens of thousands of East London shoppers at the weekend.
The big bright display, located outside M&S and H&M stores, had visuals promoting the stunning sights of North Cyprus, while stand visitors could also sample a slice of Turkish Cypriot culture. The weekend promotion inside the UK’s fourth biggest shopping mall included adverts being broadcast on screens all around Westfield Stratford for three days, maximising visibility for the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC).
TRNC Tourism Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Ataoğlu opened the North Cyprus tourism stand on Friday afternoon. He was accompanied by Ambassador Çimen Keskin, the TRNC London Representative, and Turkish Ambassador Osman Koray Ertaş.
At an onsite press briefing, Mr Ataoğlu said that the Westfield promotion, “is a first” and that while the sector had in the past promoted TRNC tourism at commercial travel fairs, which they continue to do, this was “clearly insufficient” and that “greater effort was needed to bring more tourists to our country.”
The TRNC Tourism Minister stated the drop in visitor numbers from the UK was of concern and had prompted a re-think of how to win them back, particularly in London, where most UK travellers originated from. He said the aim was “to return to former [days] and once again attract the same number of tourists from London”.
Mr Ataoğlu said he wants to see Turkish Cypriots living in London, and fourth generation British Turkish Cypriots, who should see TRNC as their “homeland”, as well as non-Turkish Cypriot Britons visit North Cyprus. He explained that the TRNC’s promotion at “one of the UK’s and Europe’s busiest shopping malls”, where “over 100,000 visitors were expected over the weekend” was an “important step” towards that.
The three-day promotion, which ran from Friday 20 October to Sunday 22 October, involved a number of different professionals from the TRNC tourism sector including tour operators, hoteliers and tour guides. The approach reflected the methods used by the TRNC at large business-to-business tourism fairs, such as the upcoming World Travel Market at London’s Excel Centre.
“This was our first experience in the UK as a team promoting [North Cyprus as a holiday destination] in such location. The outcome was really, really good and very enlightening. We had great feedback from all the participants and huge interest from visitors over the three days,” Kadir Doruhan, the head of the North Cyprus Tourism Office in London, told T-VINE.
“Lots of people picked up brochures and enquired about holidaying in North Cyprus. People wanted to book a holiday there and then! It’s likely we will do more of the same next year,”Mr Doruhan added.
The TRNC’s “lovely” tourism promotional stand, which measured 60 square metres, was located outside the entrance of M&S on the first floor of the shopping centre, making it unmissable to thousands of passers-by.
Those who ventured towards the stand were treated to Turkish coffee and Turkish Cypriot snacks such as basdelli (sweet snack made of grape molasses) and çitlemit bittası (savoury flatbread filled with dried hackberries) served by young people dressed in traditional Turkish Cypriot costume.
Mr Doruhan said Turkish Cypriots visiting Westfield Stratford over the weekend also came to the TRNC tourism stand to tell the team “Well done” and “how proud” they were to see such a positive and professional display.
The TRNC Tourism Ministry and its UK office opted for the smaller of the two Westfield shopping centres in London to market North Cyprus. The Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, is the UK’s largest shopping mall measuring 235,900m2, while at 184,100m2 Westfield Stratford is the UK’s fourth largest. However, the Stratford City mall has the greatest footfall, averaging 50 million visitors a year.
Number of UK holidaymakers in TRNC
The visitor stats formed a critical part of the decision on where to trial the consumer pop-up stand as the TRNC drives for more holidaymakers from Britain.
Currently the vast majority of the TRNC’s two million international visitors are from Turkiye, followed by Russians, Iranians, and Germans, with Britons in fifth place. Historically, UK holiday makers were higher up the list.
Between January and September 2023, a total of 28,200 people travelled to Ercan Airport from the UK. A similar number are believed to have used airports in South Cyprus to visit the TRNC.
TRNC government border statistics show a total of 270,000 people with UK passports, including British Turkish Cypriots, travelled across the Green Line during the same period. However, these statistics also include Britons who permanently reside in Cyprus and day trippers who are holidaying in the South.
The 2022 figures for the same period (Jan-to-Sept) reflect a similar picture, with 28,000 British travellers to Ercan and 250,000 Britons crossing the Green Line.
At the start of this year, Britain’s Travel Association, formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), released its ‘Top 23 for 23’ list, detailing the 23 most popular destinations people said they planned to visit in 2023. Cyprus featured tenth on the list.
According to Statista.com, the total number of international visitors arriving in South Cyprus from the UK in 2022 was 1.2 million, nearing its pre-Covid levels of 1.3 million in 2019. The UK accounts for around a third of all tourists to South Cyprus.