All eyes to turn to Turkey's ancient city of Patara

– Patara could be nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 6,000-year heritage, says tourism sector expert

By Gozde Bayar

ANKARA (AA) – The ancient city of Patara, located in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, has a strong case to make the celebrated list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, according to a sector expert.

Patara, the capital of the ancient Lycian civilization, is getting more and more global recognition with Turkey’s declaration of 2020 as the year of Patara.

“Patara could be nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, especially its Demre district, where the Church of St. Nicholas is located,” Mustafa Siyahhan, a tourism sector expert at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, told Anadolu Agency.

Underlining that St. Nicholas is a “very important” religious icon for Christians, Siyahhan said for years Demre has thrown festivals honoring the revered figure, also known as Saint Nick, or Santa Claus.

According to tradition, St. Nicholas was born in Patara and was a bishop in the Lycian town of Myra in what is today’s Demre region.

After he died, his gift-giving habit was spread throughout the world, and he turned into the legendary figure known as Santa Claus, known for giving Christmas gifts to children.

“Our cultural assets are priceless and irreplaceable,” Siyahhan said, stressing the cultural richness of Anatolia.

Siyahhan, formerly of Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, said marshaling the country’s cultural assets to boost tourism is a tradition for Turkey.

Praising the declaration of 2020 as the year of Patara, he called it “an extremely good idea” especially if backed by careful planning.

“If we promote Patara as a tourism asset, we should ensure its continuity and permanence.”

-Digital era marketing

In the digital age, brochures and booklets are no longer effective tools for promoting tourist attractions, he said.

“We need to use new technology to promote our cultural assets,” Siyahhan said, adding that large masses of people can be reached through digital platforms and social media.

He added that posting interesting stories and videos about Patara on social media can raise awareness of what it has to offer.

“Everyone should be informed about the value of our cultural assets,” he added.

Such efforts will create a huge potential for the city, he said.

-Ancient treasure

Telling how Patara drew over 300,000 visitors in 2019, Siyahhan added that visitor numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.

“While promoting those cultural assets, the ultimate aim should not only be to attract more visitors but also to improve the quality of tourism in Turkey,” to generate higher tourism income, he stressed.

Last year foreign visitors to Turkey spent around $600 per capita.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced 2020 as the year of Patara in a bid to promote and draw more attention to the ancient city.

“I hope the year of Patara will be good for our country and the tourism sector,” said Erdogan.

Patara was home to one of the world’s first democratic parliamentary systems and was also a hub for ancient Egyptian traders.

With its 6,000-year-old heritage, the region is also well known for the remains of the Lycian parliament building and its lighthouse, possibly the world’s oldest, as well as its tranquil beaches.