High-spending Arab tourists flock to Turkey

Wed Jul 6, 2011 1:15pm EDT
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By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Dozens of Gulf Arab women in flowing black veils whisk through one of Istanbul's most luxurious shopping malls, clutching bags of lingerie, shoes and toys, swarms of children in tow.

The summer tourist season is in full swing in Turkey and Erkan Zengin, a store manager for an upmarket Turkish jewelry company, has reason to be happy.

"Our foreign customers are mostly from Saudi Arabia. They have good taste in jewelry and usually go for the big rocks."

A similar scene is repeated at a nearby leather shoe and jacket store, where a clerk can barely keep up with high-spending customers from the Middle East.

"They are not like Turks. They like a shoe, ask for their size, try it on, go to the cashier and pay. Turks want to try on 20 pairs of shoes before making up their mind," the clerk said.

"Our favorite customers are Arabs because of their quick decisions and high purchasing power."

Muslim but non-Arab Turkey has become a hot destination for Arab tourists and investors in recent years, emerging as a regional power in the Middle East under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party.


<p>Tourists walk in front of the Ottoman era Ortakoy Mecidiye Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul July 5, 2011. REUTERS/Osman Orsal</p>