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TOURISM > After Israeli apology, Turkey dreams of new tourism boom

ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse

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The air-clearing apologies were both made and accepted. Now, Turkey's tourism industry is holding its breath and hoping that Israel's apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla will translate into a new love affair that will bring Israeli holidaymakers back to its beach resorts.

"After the apology, I think we'll reach 500,000 (Israeli) tourists this year," said Timur Bayindir, the president of the Association of Hotel Owners in Turkey (TUROB), convinced that any grudges between the two allies were erased thanks to last week's diplomatic breakthrough. And he is not the only one who is optimistic.

"The cooperation between the two countries will resume as before," Basaran Ulusoy, the president of the Association of Travel Agencies in Turkey (TURSAB), told mainstream daily Sabah.

Turkey-Israeli relations after 'Operation Cast Lead'

Prior to the spat, Turkey-Israel relations were warm, and vacationers from the Jewish state were a common sight along the Turkish Mediterranean coastline. Among the 558,000 tourists that visited Turkey in 2008, one out of every 13 was Israeli, making it their top holiday destination.

But relations soured in 2009, when Israel unleashed its devastating 22-day Operation Cast Lead on Gaza. Turkey was infuriated.

It accused Israel of using disproportionate force in the conflict that cost the lives of 1,400 Palestinians -- half of them civilians -- and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers. The criticism did not go down well in Israel, where trade unions called for a boycott of Turkey. The number of Israeli tourists in Turkey fell to 312,000 that year.

Apology after Mavi Marmara killings

A year later, relations between the two states hit rock bottom. Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on the six-ship flotilla to Gaza headed by Turkey's Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish nationals are killed. In response, Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador to Turkey and suspended their military cooperation. And angry Turkish mobs took to the streets and burned Israeli flags.

That was when Israeli holidaymakers really began to turn their backs on Turkey. In 2010, the number of Israeli tourists plummeted to 110,000, in 2011 to 79,000, and last year it only slightly rebounded to 84,000.

The March 22 apology made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- and brokered by US President Barack Obama -- may reverse the trend.

"Before the apologies, we pushed very hard (for) Greece and Bulgaria, but since last week we try to do our best to push Turkish products," Eyal Kashdan said, the chief executive of Flying Carpet Travel, one of the market leaders in promoting Israeli tourism in Turkey.

"Actually, clients prefer the (Turkish) products, the hotels of Turkey... because of the luxury of the hotels and the all-inclusive system, and they feel that the Turkish cuisine is similar to the Israeli cuisine," he told AFP.

Still, he does not go as far as to say the Turks can now expect a boom in Israeli tourism. At least not yet. "I think the clients need more time to feel better with the (Turkish) hospitality," he said.
 
His reservations are echoed by Daniel Zimet, president of the Zimet Marketing Communications agency which promotes Turkey in Israel.

"Israelis shall be ensured 100 percent that there is nothing to worry about when going to Turkey," he said, adding that Erdogan is still walking a fine line in regards to doubts cast on whether the Israeli commanders of the flotilla raid still risk judicial proceedings in Turkey.

"It's still a way to go before things will be totally clarified between the two nations."

March/31/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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mara mcglothin

4/3/2013 7:33:59 PM

JOHN YOu very well might be correct, but to be fair, I have encountered rude British teens at the hotel pool in Marmaris, who I reminded that they were representing their country. I have also seen some pretty rough Russian tourists as well. No country has the patent on bad behavior.

john albay

4/3/2013 12:02:31 AM

please spare us the arrogant israeli tourists who are rude and loud.It is interesting when english or french jews holiday in Turkey they just blend in like any other tourist on the other hand the israelis are loud rude and arrogant.

mara mcglothin

4/1/2013 4:21:30 PM

Yeah, if I were a Jew I would think twice about having a vacation in Turkey. I am even contemplating sitting this season out myself.

Alex Jnds

3/31/2013 11:29:35 PM

The damage is permanent. There is a huge psychological gap now betweeen the 2 nations. The more Turkey leans towards political islam, the more Jews will feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed on Turkish soil.

james headington

3/31/2013 10:15:27 PM

Are you dreaming or what? Jewish tourism in Moslem lands are safe? Would Moslem tourists be safe in Israel? Where have you been over the last 60 years. Look what the Jews have done are doing to Moslems and even Christians. Did you see Mosad has 30,000 hitman killers around the world too. They know it themselves they are not safe anywhere, particularly in Turkey. You may like their money, but it will not come cheap.

Vargen Vargen

3/31/2013 8:59:32 PM

I am not very optimistic regarding tourism. Business on the other hand will probably/hopefully pick up rather fast. But lets be honest here, there are still hard feelings even after the apology, and you can read very aggressive messages here at TDN for example where it is rather obvious that many Turks do not like Israel. And who would go to a country with your familiy where you do not feel welcome (people shouting etc) , and where it might even be dangerous? Not my way of having fun at least.

Richard Wyatt

3/31/2013 6:30:41 PM

If I were Israeli I would adopt a wait and see policy. Turkey's leaders have been all too keen to condemn Israel whilst courting friendship with the terrorists of Gaza.

Bear Klein

3/31/2013 6:18:44 PM

Erodgan is sure making Israelis feel welcome in Turkey?
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