Protests hit tourism, but create new tourists

Protests hit tourism, but create new tourists

Güneş Kömürcüler ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Protests hit tourism, but create new tourists

The protests and the harsh police reactions have negatively affected the tourism sector, causing many hotel reservation cancellations, particularly around Istanbul’s Gezi Park. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

Turkey’s tourism sector appears to have been negatively affected by the protests and the harsh police reactions, which began in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last week and have now spread to many other cities. It seems that there have been many trip cancellations in Istanbul, but not in other cities yet, and a new kind of tourist has arrived: Security tourists, or in other words - police forces.

More than 40 percent of hotel reservations have been postponed or cancelled amid the latest social unrest and police reactions, mainly in Istanbul, according to sector representatives.

“The protests have made many foreign tourists uncomfortable, mainly around Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul, which attracts much more [business and culture] tourists than Turkey’s other cities. They, especially business tourists, have begun to cancel their visits or to choose new hotels outside Istanbul’s city center to stay in,” Osman Ayık, president of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED) told the Hürriyet Daily News. He added that there had been no such cancellations in flights or hotel reservations in Turkey’s cities other than Istanbul.

As has been the case for all countries, any social unrest affects people’s travel plans. Many big hotels in Istanbul have appeared to begin to take phone-calls for reservation cancelations amid the protests and harsh police reactions. “The latest protests in Turkey have had an impact on the business or vacation trip plans of many local and foreign people in the medium term. We have seen such cancellations by both our local and foreign guests, especially for this June,” Can Göktaş, Sales and Marketing Director of the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, one of the most notable hotels of Istanbul, which had recently hosted popstar Madonna.

New tourists: Police forces

There are no cancellations in other cities, which have even seen the arrival of a new kind of tourist: Security tourists, namely police forces. “We have not seen any negative effects of the latest protests on the tourism sector in Anatolia, including the coastline cities, such as Antalya. We are even seeing an extra fullness at the hotels in Turkey’s capital city Ankara, due to the on-duty police forces, who have moved into Ankara from other cities for the protests,” Seçim Aydın, president of the Anatolia Tourism Operators Association (ATİD) told the Daily News.

The U.S. Embassy to Turkey has issued a warning to its citizens in Turkey about potential violence, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. The embassy issued a warning letter for the attention of American citizens, reminding of the tension in the country that has been ongoing since last week. The German Foreign Ministry has also urged German citizens to stay away from demonstrations, according to German Embassy spokesman Peter Kettner.

Sector representatives want to hear some social rapprochement as soon as possible, just like many others. “Unless any middle way is found soon, we will for sure see the cancellations of trips in other cities as well,” Ayık noted.