Türkiye’s panel discussion at the United Nations Climate Change Conference focused on the country’s pioneering National Sustainable Tourism Program. Moderated by Prof. Dr Hasan Ali Karasar, Rector of Cappadocia University, the panel was joined by Kaan Kaşif Kavaloğlu, Board Member of Türkiye Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA), Dr Elif Balcı Fisunoğlu, Acting General Manager of TGA, CB (Ram) Ramkumar, Vice Chairman of GSTC, and Erkan Yağcı, the President of Türkiye Hotelier’s Federation (Türofed).


At the panel, CB (Ram) Ramkumar said, “Sustainability is a significantly detailed topic, and we see many countries still discussing the fundamentals of their roadmap in the tourism industry. Türkiye, on the other hand, has already concluded its legal groundwork and started its program, which is now mandatory for all accommodation facilities. The program has started creating measurable results with hundreds of certified and verified hotels, and thus, Türkiye is now setting a global example for sustainability in tourism”.


Dr Elif Balcı Fisunoğlu, Acting General Manager of TGA, explained how Türkiye’s program was structured and implemented. Dr Fisunoğlu said, “The foundations of our sustainability approach go back to 2008 when the Ministry of Culture and Tourism launched its ‘Green Star’ program. After Türkiye signed the Paris Agreement in 2021, our progress accelerated, and we signed our cooperation agreement with GSTC in 2022. 2023 marked the start of our program, and while we are approaching the end of the year, we can proudly share that over 1 million beds in Türkiye are now certified and verified.”


TGA’s Board Member Kaan Kaşif Kavaloğlu added, “The tourism industry plays a vital role in the mobility of millions, and every single business unit represented in the overall ecosystem has essential tasks and responsibilities to achieving net-zero emissions. By 2030, we will have a 100% certified accommodation infrastructure in Türkiye, ensuring international sustainable tourism standards with all tourism sector stakeholders. Therefore, we, as the Turkish tourism industry, have the utmost pride and satisfaction, as Türkiye is among the pioneering countries in the world when it comes to sustainable tourism”.


Türkiye’s National Sustainable Tourism Program has four major priorities: Sustainable management, environmental sustainability, cultural sustainability, and socio-economic sustainability. In this context, Türkiye has 19 Cultural, 2 Mixed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 82 Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites on the UNESCO Tentative List, 8 UNESCO Creative Cities and 25 Intangible Cultural Heritage, which makes it 2nd in the world. Türkiye also has 5 restaurants in the Michelin GUIDE with green stars focusing on sustainability, which shows that the Turkish gastronomy ecosystem is also very conscious of sustainable approaches.


Erkan Yağcı, the President of the Türkiye Hotelier’s Federation, stated that on top of the intangible benefits the program brings, hotels in Türkiye also started to see the economic benefits of being certified. Yağcı said, “There is an evident demand for sustainable tourism, and we are witnessing that our certified hotels move up in the consideration list of the travellers”.


Prof. Dr Hasan Ali Karasar, the rector of Kapadokya University, TGA’s program partner, said that the program will further elevate the standards of tourism facilities, and it aims not only to promote sustainable and responsible tourism practices but also to ensure the sustainability of tourism activities by preserving natural and cultural heritage resources, supporting socio-economic development, mitigating the adverse effects of global climate change, meeting the changing expectations of sustainability-focused consumers, and making a positive contribution to the well-being of destinations.