A Turkish travel agent is starring in his own Arabic-language soap opera in a bid to attract Arab visitors to Turkey's hard-hit resorts. David Pollard reports.
From packaging holidays to packaging dreams ... Turkish travel agent Serdar Ali Abet is a self-made soap opera star. For Serdar though, this not about mere celebrity fame, or even art. (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) CEO OF KARNAK INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AGENCY AND LEADING ACTOR OF 'BIG HOUSE', SERDAR ALI ABET, SAYING: "After Turkey shot down a Russian plane, as a tourism professional I started to think of ways to contribute to the sector. I had the idea of shooting a series for the Arabic market." And so he did. A captain of the holiday industry becoming a voyager of the Arab-speaking airwaves. Putting up his own money to lure the show's Saudi backers. (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) CEO OF KARNAK INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AGENCY AND LEADING ACTOR OF 'BIG HOUSE', SERDAR ALI ABET, SAYING: "They came and we looked around. They visited Turkey. I showed them this villa. They were amazed. And we started the project." His old business is fast gaining Z-list status. Here in Bekel, the signs flash Russian to streets virtually empty of Russians tourists. The local replica Kremlin - not such an attraction right now. Others stay away too amid a worsening security situation - visitor arrivals in April at a 17-year low. The cost: a massive blow for local shopkeepers. And - just a small dent to Serdar's pride. (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) CEO OF KARNAK INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AGENCY AND LEADING ACTOR OF 'BIG HOUSE', SERDAR ALI ABET, SAYING: "Keep in mind that I'm a boss. I have ordered people around for 30 years. But I am a worker here. When the director watches me acting, he kindly says: 'This was nice but can we do it again? It will be nicer.' This is hard.'' Harder still is a possible loss in Turkish tourism revenues of $8 billion in 2016 - a year of sunlight, cameras, but little action.