“Gated communities for tourists” in Turkey

Gated communities are a common feature of American life but I was intrigued by comments from a sociology about “gated communities for tourists” in Turkey:

While economic consequences of holiday resorts are under discussion, some also underline the sociological outcomes. According to sociologist Özgür Sar?, who specializes in tourism sociology, many Turkish cities are closed to touristic activities.

“I did my field study in Konya, where many tourists come for Mevlana (the Muslim poet and Sufi mystic),” Sar? told the Daily News. “All tourist attractions are located around his tomb; there is nothing else for tourists in other parts of the city. This is the same in all cities of Turkey, even in Istanbul. The tourist route in Istanbul doesn’t go beyond Sultanahmet-Eminönü-Taksim route. So these areas also become gated environments, where there is no interaction with the locals.”

Sar? said most Turkish municipalities avoid bringing tourists and the local public together; and therefore keep touristic activities in one part of the city.

“Turkey has a conservative society and tourism means breaking the conservatism,” Sar? said. “Municipalities are concerned because they don’t want any unwanted incidents. On the other hand, they have to obey the instructions of the Tourism Ministry, so they prefer keeping touristic locations on one side,” Sar? said.

This highlights a larger issue: just how much should tourists interact with locals? It sounds like the lines are drawn more clearly in Turkey than in some other places and many tourists are supposed to “experience” the country within the confines of resorts. Of course, sociologists would note that these resorts offer only a very limited and likely consumerist view of whatever country is outside the resort. I imagine that tourists in these Turkish resorts still interact with at least a few Turkish residents who are performing service jobs within the resort. But if this is the extent of the interaction, it is hard to suggest one has truly experienced Turkey. And then we could ask how different the “gated” resort in Turkey is from the same kind of resort in Cancun and from all sorts of other beach locations.

Underlying a lot of the discussion in this article is that Turkey could grow the tourism industry and bring more money into the country. “Gated” resorts may bring in some money but it could be spread around more, possibly more to average citizens and less to resort corporations, if tourists visited more sites around the country.