Members of the tourism industry say, however, they have been disappointed with the attention the event has garnered.
The year 2008 was the bimillenial of the birth of St. Paul and Taurus hoped to play a pivotal role in this anniversary, but the province's expectations have been largely unfulfilled.
Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Tarsus Chamber of Trade and Industry Chairman Mehmet Karagözlü said Tarsus was disappointed by the lack of attention. He said they had promoted the city with the support of various organizations but had failed to draw high numbers of tourists.
Karagözlü said the Year of St. Paul had seemed a golden opportunity for Tarsus, which is regarded by the Vatican as the pilgrimage destination. He said they had held an opening ceremony in the garden of the St. Paul Church with the participation of Cardinal Walter Casper, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia; Antonio Lucibello, ambassador for the Vatican; Gabriele Caccıa, Vatican secretary of state; Mehmet Emin Özafşar, vice president of the Ministry of Religious Affairs; and a number of guests.
"We expected before and after the ceremony that a great number of foreign tourists would come to the city. We had talks with tradesmen about the production of souvenirs unique to the city. But tourists' visits were very short and they didn't purchase even these souvenir products. Restaurants and cafes serving Tarsus cuisine were disappointed too. In brief, St. Paul year fell short of expectations," he continued.
He said they hoped a plan to print brochures in different languages and send them to target countries would interest in the remaining few months of the year. "We are planning to go to the Vatican and have talks to bring more tourists to Tarsus. I hope that the rest of the year will be better for us."
Tourists stay for two hoursKaragözlü said they were also working with tour agencies to improve the city's promotion. He said the agencies would work toward making it possible for tourists to stay and enjoy the city for a full day. Complaining about the insufficient number of tourist facilities in Tarsus, Karagözlü said, "This problem will be overcome thanks to the Kazanlı-Tarsus Coastline Project. The problem of hotel and bed capacity will be solved by 2010. We have plans with Mersin Mayor Hüseyin Aksoy regarding this issue." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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