Hopeful signs from Germany in tourism
Europe’s top Turkish tour operator Bentour brought together the owners and staff of 400 tourism agencies from Switzerland, Germany and Austria at a three-day event in the southern tourism hub Antalya.
Considering the serious decline this year in the number of tourists visiting Turkey, it was a particularly important meeting, during which projections for 2017 were discussed.
Everybody was hopeful for the new season. Both German and Turkish owners of tourism agencies had high expectations. It was reported that many German tourists who had opted for alternative places (Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal) rather than Turkey had not had very positive experiences.
According to a story broadcast two weeks ago on one of the German news stations NTV, major German tour operators such as TUI Thomas Cook and Neckermann, DER, FTI, and Alltours are very hopeful about Turkey for 2017. They have therefore increased their capacity accordingly. It is of course very good news for Turkey that major tour operators are hopeful for next year.
One travel agency owner who flew from Germany told me that there was an elderly German couple sitting next to him on the plane. They were going for a vacation in Antalya. During their chat he asked them whether they were afraid of visiting Turkey. “We are going on vacation. We’re not interested in politics. This is our 15th trip anyway. We are not afraid of Turkey,” they said.
However, tourism professional Kadir Uğur drew a dark picture for 2016. He said everyone had been affected by the price reductions made in panic by hoteliers. His group’s turnover had therefore dropped from 120 million euros to 55 million euros.
“Urgent shock treatment is needed for 2017: An advertisement budget worth 200 million euros in Europe.
Such a budget should not be too much for Turkey, which can spend $10 billion on Syrian refugees. With such an advertisement budget, the atmosphere in the European media could immediately turn in favor of Turkey,” Uğur said.
He is the owner of Bentour, which has operated in the European tourism market for almost 50 years. He still distributed many of the group’s famous printed reservation catalogues in Antalya “despite the internet, because I believe these catalogues are important for all our customers young and old.”
Uğur said he would be converting his 500-square meter house in Stuttgart into a Tourism Museum. “We have collected so many documents, catalogues and pictures over the years that this place has to become a museum. Those visiting the museum will be able to experience the history of tourism.”
He plans to hand over the reins at Bentour’s headquarters in Zurich to his son Deniz Uğur and will go on a world tour in his boat that lasts for two years. “I will post details of the journey on the internet day by day,” he said.
Despite all the current negative conditions, Bentour was still able to make a profit this year, Uğur added.
“I am not pessimistic and you should not be either. Politics belongs to politicians. Let’s all just do our jobs the best we can, then both Turkey and us tourism professionals will be the winners. Our only demand from politics is for it to open our path. That is just enough. All my 40-year experience points to this,” he said.
Every year, Bentour hosts the agencies it has worked with throughout the year at a traditional “Bentour Comedy Night” that took place during the event in Antalya.
During the comedy evening at the Regnum Kayra Hotel, heavyweights from the German comedy world such as Fatih Çevikkollu and Bodo Bach both entertained the audience and made them think. Before their programs, many in the audience wondered whether they would make ironic fun of Turkey, but actually both of them focused more on the stance of Germans.