Expats and Students Serve as Voluntary Tourist Envoys in Turkey


Turkey’s historical and natural beauty attracts millions of tourists to the country each year, and the country finds a helping hand in promoting it to the expats and international students it hosts.

In the central province of Kayseri, foreign students offer free tours of tourist attractions. Their efforts as the country’s informal tourist envoys eventually attracted more tourists from their country to Turkey. A Chinese expatriate settled two years ago in the fabulous region of Cappadocia, located in the Nevşehir district of Kayseri. There, she endeavors to promote her new homeland to the inhabitants of her native country through videos that she publishes on social networks.

An association in Kayseri organizes visits, lectures and other events for students from Africa, Asia and Europe who study in universities in the province thanks to Türkiye scholarships from the Presidency of Turks Abroad and related communities (YTB). Visits and events contribute to their integration into Turkish society and help them to deepen their knowledge of the country. Tours cover several destinations in Kayseri, from Kültepe, a former settlement, to the historic house where the famous Ottoman architect Sinan was born and the historic “bird mansions”, a group of decorative 19th century birdhouses in the Gesi district, as well as other cities. Association President Ali Dursun told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday that they had organized 16 different events including visits for 300 students from 112 countries who attend four universities in Kayseri. “They are, in a way, our cultural emissaries. They talk about what they saw here when they return to their country,” he said.

Baiaman Esenakunov, a student at Erciyes University Faculty of Engineering, said Anatolia is home to important historical sites and he would definitely recommend Turkey to his fellow Kyrgyz. Esenakunov said he visited Ephesus, the citadel of Alanya, historical sites in Mersin as well as Konya, the home of famous Sufi philosopher Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi.

Maliki Mustafa, a PhD student from Togo, said he always talks about Turkey’s cultural and historical sites when visiting his country and “absolutely” recommends Istanbul, Kayseri and Konya.

Rimshan Muhammad Rafik from Sri Lanka said he was particularly proud to visit sites with traces of Islamic history. “People in Sri Lanka are particularly curious about the Ottoman heritage in Anatolia. I convey to them what I have seen. More and more Sri Lankans are eager to visit Turkey, especially places like Şanlıurfa and Mardin where there once lived prophets,” he said.

Ismira Julfayeva, a future nurse studying at Erciyes University, said they both had the opportunity to see Turkey’s historical places as well as learn about its culture and customs.

Chen Xuan moved to Ürgüp, a district of Nevşehir, two years ago. The Chinese national is engaged to local tour guide Burhan Güney, whom she met while studying Chinese in Tianjin, and is among the volunteer tourism envoys. Xuan’s videos of Cappadocia, a historical region spanning Nevşehir and Kayseri best known as the home of volcanic formations called “fairy chimneys”, are attracting attention on social media. She and her fiancé promote the area with their videos.

She told AA that she first visited Cappadocia in 2016 as a tourist and fell in love with it. After meeting Güney, she decided to settle in Nevşehir. “The hospitality of the Turkish people and the historical, cultural and natural beauties here are alluring. I am also impressed with the weather, as you can experience four seasons in different places. I especially liked Cappadocia and Göbeklitepe,” she said, referring to another historical site in Şanlıurfa in southeastern Turkey.

Chen Xuan’s videos cover everything from “fairy chimneys” to hot air balloons, a popular tourist attraction for a bird’s eye view of volcanic formations and beautiful valleys, and workshops offering samples of local crafts. “I love history and this place is great for history buffs like me, especially with the ancient rock-hewn churches. I talk about the geological formation and marvelous landscapes of Cappadocia in my videos. Most viewers are eager to visit here,” she said.

Güney said he helped his fiancée, whom he calls “Suzan”, while filming videos. “She’s touring and I help her promote Cappadocia. We support each other. We have a lot in common but also major differences, but that’s what brings us together,” he said.

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