Israeli tourists canceling holiday reservations in Turkey after gov’t warning
HÜRRİYET / ISTANBUL Barış Balcı
Israel was once one of Turkey’s most important sources of tourists, with 331,582 Israelis visiting Turkey in 2009. AA PhotoLarge numbers of Israeli tourists who had made holiday plans in Turkey for this summer have canceled their reservations, as experts expect a drop to the levels that followed the raid on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
The cancelations came after a travel warning issued by the Israeli government following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements regarding the ongoing military operation against Gaza.
A Turkish tourism agency operator said 4,000 cancellations had been made just days after the warning issued by the Israeli government, and suggested that many more would come.
“There also will be cancellations for the months of September, October and November. We may experience a return similar to the period after the Mavi Marmara raid,” said Serdar Ünsalan, the CEO of Kalanit Tours.
“As a company, we brought 30,000 tourists from Israel in June this year alone. The number was around 15,000 in June 2013. We were expecting to bring 75,000 Israeli tourists this year, but we will likely only reach 40,000 now,” Ünsalan said.
The number of Israeli tourists had just started to recover after the Mavi Marmara raid. Israel was once one of Turkey’s most important sources of tourists with 331,582 visitors in 2009, with some suggesting a future potential of 600,000 Israeli tourists visiting Turkey per year.
But tourism operators say the numbers may not recover from a second plummet. “People will not come if tension continues. If there are cancellations this year, it doesn’t seem very possible to find a way to compensate them in the future,” said Osman Ayık, the head of the Federation of Hoteliers.
Reports from Israeli dailies also confirm the trend, with operators speaking about dozens of cancelations from tourists who had made reservations for the next few days.
Ankara has toughened its stance against Israel following the deadly operation against Gaza, putting an end to a short phase of normalization since Israel’s apology regarding the Mavi Marmara raid last year.