Muslims are being encouraged to vacation in Turkey this summer to offset the
estimated $ 4 0 0 million l o s s caused by Israelis boycotting the country as
relations between the countries deteriorate.
A number of Muslim scholars
and leaders issued a statement on June 17 praising Turkey’s position regarding
Israel and welcoming Ankara’s efforts to “lift the siege on Gaza and
the Palestinian people.” It called on Arabs and Muslims to show support for
Turkey by boosting economic ties.
The statement called on “families and
groups planning to travel to Europe, the US or elsewhere, to choose
where mosques and historic monuments of ancient and natural beauty exist
– as a
vacation destination instead.”
Issued from Doha, Qatar, the statement was
signed by such influential leaders as Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president
International Union for Muslim Scholars; Abdullah Bin Baih, president of
Global Center for Renewal and Guidance; Dr. Salman al-Odah, chairman of
Islam Today Group; Chakib Ben Makhlouf, head of the Islamic
Europe; and Islamic thinker Dr. Muhammad Amara.
“The fleet of freedom was
a giant step that opened the door to bring the international focus on
Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and was an attempt by the Turkish
believe in justice and have a sense of deep belonging to their Islamic
break the siege,” read the statement, which was first aired on Al-
was widely reported in the Arab media.
According to a report last week in
the popular Turkish newspaper Hürriyet
more than 100,000 Israelis out of
150,000 with reservations have canceled their summer vacation bookings
Turkish resorts since the flotilla incident on May 31, causing a loss of
Last week, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-
Eliezer held a secret meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
an effort to smooth over relations between the two countries.
interview with the owner of Levantin Tours, which has
been bringing tourists from Israel to Turkey for more than 15 years.
Guner told the paper that his company had already posted a loss of some
Turkish Liras (about $2.2m.) due to canceled reservations.
had hoped to bring in 17,000 Israeli tourists this year, but is bringing
200, the report said.
On Sunday, Turkish Airlines announced that it will
be reducing the frequency of weekly flights to Israel by 10 percent, the
business daily TheMarker
The airline company will also replace
aircraft flying to Ben- Gurion Airport with smaller ones, due to the
number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey.
Airport officials expect June
travel statistics to show a 10% decrease in the amount of Israeli
flying with Turkish Airlines.
Despite these developments, official
statements coming out of Turkey last week claimed that the country has
affected by the decline in Israeli tourism. Hotelier Middle East.com, a
tourism Web site, said that the Turkish tourism board had reported an
in visitors from the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi
Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait) since the
The site quoted Emin Kaya, the Turkish consul-general in Dubai,
as saying that while Israeli tourists are now boycotting Turkey, the
visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council had more than compensated for
He added: “We are losing maybe 95 percent of tourists from Israel,
but we are compensating with tourists from this region many more
That situation had the impact of people from this region booking
more holidays to Turkey. When Israel attacked the Turkish flotilla, GCC
increased their bookings to Turkey by 20% in two days.”
The online report
also noted that visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council spend more
Israeli tourists, who usually spend $600-650 per person. Visitors from
Cooperation Council spend around $2,400 per person.
Tourism Ministry in Jerusalem says visitors to Israel have not been
the international outcry over the flotilla incident in which nine men –
Turks and a Turkish-American – were killed.
Globes reported on Thursday
that Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov said that there had been no
decline in the
number of incoming tourists last month, but rather a rise in comparison
same period last year.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog,
who was tourism minister in 2006-7, met last month with his Bulgarian
counterpart, Nikolai Mladinov, and discussed ways to increase the number
Israeli tourists to Bulgaria as an alternative to Turkey.