Rebranding Turkey in 2017

Rebranding Turkey in 2017

You take a weekend escape to a touristy European city to get away from the depressing mood in Turkey. In a fancy restaurant, you end up having a conversation with a British couple who say they have been to Antalya but not Istanbul. 

With a nationalistic reflex and a love of the homeland that is ingrained in the DNA of all Turks, your friend tells them they should visit Istanbul. But with a professional deportment, you prefer to remain on the cautious side, noting to them that Istanbul is obviously not that popular nowadays. They respond politely that, in the end, terror strikes everywhere. 

You tell them, however, that a crisis could turn into an opportunity and that due to the fact that Istanbul no longer tops the list of popular destinations, they can stay in Ottoman palaces turned into hotels for more affordable prices.

What happens is this: The very next day a deadly bomb attack occurs very close to the hotels you mentioned the previous night, in the very heart of Istanbul. You think to yourself and thank God you at least only modestly promoted a visit to Istanbul.

What if perception is also reality?

A diplomat based in Turkey was recently appointed to a country in Africa that I did not have much knowledge about. It was certainly not among the most stable ones. “You know what the case with Turkey is,” the diplomat said. “It’s one thing when you look from the outside and another when you live inside.”

The next day it caught my eye in the international news that at least two dozens of people had been killed in the capital of that African country due to recent turmoil. I thought the diplomat’s perception was quite an optimistic one.

I, however, living inside this country and having been extremely critical until a few months ago about outsiders who harbored overly pessimistic views about Turkey, could not remain optimistic when I was asked by a Western diplomat 10 days prior to the assassination of the Russian ambassador whether there was a chance of an attack against a diplomat in Turkey. It was not something I had thought about, but I realized that in the face of rising anti-Western feelings, this had become a topic of serious discussion among diplomatic representations when the same question was posed to me just the following day. I told them the same answer: “If you had asked me this question six months ago, I would not see it as a strong possibility since I still had deep trust in Turkish security institutions, especially in terms of their sensitivity and capability in protecting foreign representations. I no longer say so. Not that I know anything particular, but it seems that currently anything can happen in Turkey.”

I wish I had been proven wrong.

When you hear that some expats limit their activities to going to their jobs and coming back home while avoiding going out on the weekend, that some foreign companies have devised evacuation plans for their expat employees and that while some experts advise foreigners to keep their investments but that new ones amount to mission suicide, how can you come up with counter arguments?

Rebranding Turkey will be one of the main challenges of 2017.