The 20-storey floating Costa Venezia has just landed in Galataport, in the heart of Istanbul. At the dock, it will dump up to 5,260 passengers capable, in a few days, of spending several thousand euros in the city.
Galataport, a cruise port opened last year on the European shores of the Bosphorus in the Karakoy district, is set to boost luxury tourism in Turkey. The country will not be deprived of it: the Turkish pound is depreciating day by day and inflation is close to 75% over a year, the highest since 1998.
The manager: “Arrivals one after another”
“Since October 1, 2021, the boats have been arriving one after the other,” Figen Ayan, Galataport’s port manager, told AFP. “It gives an idea of the popularity and importance of Istanbul as a destination,” she said, noting that the first liners did not wait for the good days to dock.
In Galataport, there are trendy restaurants – including one of the Turkish chef and social media star Nusret Gokce, known as Salt Bae -, Turkish and international brands and a chic hotel.
The site also offers pedestrians a new ride with stunning views of the city’s Asian shore.
Part of the crushed urban memory
This kilometer along the Bosphorus has been inaccessible to residents for two centuries, but critics have pointed out that the project is clearing part of Istanbul’s urban memory and contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood, not far from Galata, stormed by tourists.
Figen Ayan sees things differently and points out that Galataport is opening up new access to the Bosphorus, not just cruise liners. “A world premiere,” she says.
Objective. 1.5 million tourists a year
The cruise industry is struggling to recover after the pandemic was halted, but Turkey, which is already seeing a return of tourist flows, is counting on Galataport to further boost arrivals.
About 30 ships have so far anchored at Galataport and another 200 are expected by the end of the year, for a total of 450,000 passengers. The goal is to reach 1.5 million cruise passengers and 25 million visitors a year.
An expense of $ 400 a day
“We can now say that the pandemic is behind us and that the cruise industry is recovering,” says Figen Ayan, who points out that cruise liners have a higher purchasing power than the lambda tourist. “Where an ordinary tourist spends $ 62.” [61 francs] a passenger on a cruise ship will spend $ 400 a day, ”she said.
The huge ships involved
But as elsewhere, this tourism is highly criticized. In the summer of 2021, the Italian government banned itaccused of threatening the fragile ecosystem of the lagoon of the Cité des Doges and the foundations of its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The environmental cost of cruises is seven times higher than the cash inflows they generate,” said Muharrem Balci, an associate professor at Istanbul University. The liners, which discharge large amounts of wastewater, have an impact on marine life and exacerbate global pollution, he said.
Only a small part of the waste generated by these floating cities can be treated, and a significant amount is dumped directly into the sea.
MSC defends itself
Burak Caliskan, director for Turkey of Swiss-based shipowner MSC Cruises, rejects criticism: “We don’t think Istanbul will face a similar situation [à celle de Venise]. The structure of the city is different, ”he argues.
Last year, the Sea of Marmara, which bathes the southern shores of Istanbul and is caught between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, experienced its biggest outbreak of “sea snot” – a kind of slimy foam – but Burak Caliskan assures that newly built ships meet environmental concerns.
“The exhaust is filtered and the paint used on the ship has been completely changed (…) so as not to harm the marine environment,” he said. “We are even working to reduce the noise of our boats’ engines so that they do not cause any harm to the high seas, especially to whales.”
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