Istanbul to woo tourists with first shopping festival

Preparations are underway in Istanbul for the country's first ever shopping festival, set to kick off in March.

The 40-day festival, designed to position the Turkish city as a major shopping and tourism destination, begins March 18 and will offer discounted items, extended hours and a range of events in venues around the city.

Traditional tourist destinations such as the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market will host concerts, street festivals and displays such as fashion shows designed to get tourists spending, emulating the successful Dubai Shopping festival.

Some of the 90 shopping centers in Istanbul will also be open 24 hours a day, allowing even nightbirds to get their shopping fix of everything from luxury Turkish fashion brands to spices and antiques, with prizes awarded daily to visitors.

Organizers hope that the festival will grow in size to attract over 1.5 million tourists to Istanbul annually over the next four years, helping the government hit its target of 10 million tourists a year by 2015.

Dubai's festival, which has been held in the UAE at the beginning of every year since 1996, now attracts around 3 million visitors to the emirate every year and is believed to have brought in around 40 million visitors since its inception.

Turkey's major airlines have announced promotional deals for those wishing to get to the Istanbul event, which runs through April 26.

Turkish Airlines, the nation's flag carrier, is a major sponsor and will be offering promotional tickets from some countries to the event, as well as reportedly considering raising the baggage allowance for shoppers attending.

Pegasus Airlines, which flies from 25 international destinations to Istanbul, is also offering low-cost tickets from several European destinations, including  the UK from £59.99 (€70) and France from €59.99.

http://www.istanbulshoppingfest.org

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