Modern cruise hub to give boost to Turkish tourism

A state-of-the-art port in Istanbul with an underground terminal, a celebrity chef's restaurant and a shopping centre, welcomes yet another 5,000-passenger cruise ship, bringing more cash to Turkey's tourism industry.

Hit hard by COVID, Turkey's tourism sector could get a shot in the arm from the revenue generated at Galataport, which opened in 2021, a year later than planned due to the pandemic.

The port could also provide a boost to an economy that has been weighed down by double-digit inflation and a currency in free fall, though the project has drawn criticism over the destruction of historical monuments and the potential environmental impact.

Figen Ayan, chief port officer at Galataport, said "ships began to arrive one after the other" after the facility opened in October. "Galataport has become the face of tourism," she told AFP.

The 20-story Costa Venezia vessel from Italy was taking passengers from an 11-day voyage to the Aegean Sea when it docked in Galataport, its gangway connecting directly to the futuristic underground customs terminal.

200 more to come

The port is home to a shopping centre, a hotel, cultural venues and a restaurant owned by Turkish butcher Nusret Gökçe, better known as Salt Bae, the social media star who sprinkles salt on steaks in front of celebrity customers.

"Galataport Istanbul is much more than a cruise port," Ayan said.

Around 30 cruise ships have so far anchored at Galataport and 200 more are expected by the end of the year, which amounts to 450,000 passengers. The pandemic caused havoc in the global cruise ship industry as vessels were hit by outbreaks and vessels were banned in several countries.

"Now we can say that we have left the pandemic...

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