Terror scares domestic tourists to Southeast
Recent terror attacks in Turkey’s southwestern provinces have added to the turmoil in neighboring Syria and wiped out traditional Ramadan bayram holiday tours to the region, hurting both tour operators and local businesses.
Several tourism companies told the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday that they have either canceled tours to the region this year or did not launch them at all despite the nine-day holiday period that promised big revenues.
“The number of local tourists preferring cultural tours to Southeast Anatolia dropped significantly this summer, compared to last year,” said Kerem Gökçe, head of cultural tours at Jolly Tour in Istanbul, one of the country’s biggest travel agencies.
Jolly Tour took nearly 2,000 people to the region during last summer. “We have served only 60 people so far this summer,” Gökçe said.
Three soldiers were killed on Sunday in the southeastern Hakkari province when alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, detonated landmines as their military convoy passed by. At least 37 soldiers have been killed by landmines or clashes with the PKK in August.
Turkey’s State Railways, or TCDD, has also recently canceled train tours in the country’s eastern provinces, said an official from the state-run company’s Diyarbakır office, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Routine train services to the eastern province of Van and southeastern provinces of Batman and Elazığ still continue, the official said in a phone interview Monday. “Still, last summer, there were cultural tours from Ankara to the region by train. Nowadays the most frequent visitors to the region are journalists.”
Still, the official spoke of no link between the regional terror and the declining number of visitors.
Hotels lose big money
Noting that tour routes are organized according to safety conditions in the region, Jolly Tour’s Gökçe said travel agencies and hotels have lost millions of Turkish Liras due to the recent terror attacks. A hotel with 70 rooms, for example, would lose approximately 10,000 liras per day due to cancellations, he said. “In that sense, during the nine-day Ramadan holiday, each hotel in the region has lost nearly 90,000 liras.”
According to him, the slump in demand among domestic tourists to the southeastern region of the country has also hit locals and villagers there. Cafes, restaurants serving tradition foods and people selling souvenirs on the streets are starting to feel the “bitter taste” of the slow down in business.
‘I wouldn’t go there’
“There is almost no demand for southeastern cultural tours,” said Nazlı Karaboya, customer representative of Arnika Tours based in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, speaking to the Daily News on Monday. Commenting about the security concerns, she said, “If I was a tourist, I myself would not choose to go there.”
“Compared to previous years, the demand is down for southeastern provinces,” said Özgür Yılmaz, a manager at tatilsepeti.com, one of the largest online travel booking platforms in Turkey.
Yılmaz said during a phone interview on Monday that his company had already canceled a tour to the southeastern provinces of the country.
Ferhat Kuşçu, another executive from Jolly Tour, said: “We have not yet faced any cultural or ethnic difficulties in the region, but still the hesitation is widespread among domestic tourists. The psychological pressure of the terror acts scares tourists.”