‘Once thriving tourism to Turkey virtually non-existent’

Vacations canceled as Israelis avoid country even as stopover on connection flights, say industry execs.

istanbul water view 311 (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
istanbul water view 311
(photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
Israeli tourist visits to Turkey has “dropped to near zero” in recent days, according to an executive at one of Israel’s largest travel agencies.
Gilad Brovinsky, Deputy Head of Marketing for “Disenhaus Tours,” said Tuesday that “in recent months the number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey was much lower than in previous years and most of them were Israeli Arabs. In recent days with the stories that we’re hearing in the news, it has fallen to zero and we are dealing with mass cancellations of vacations and flights to Turkey.”
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Brovinsky added that the cancellations, which should increase even more following Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement on Tuesday that he is suspending defense ties with Israel, include not only package vacations to Turkey, but also a large number of travelers who were using Istanbul as a stop off for connecting flights elsewhere.
Brovinsky said that tourists who cancel their Turkey vacations will probably pick other destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean or Black Sea, making places like Rhodes, Crete, or Varna, Bulgaria the big benefactors of Turkey’s loss of Israeli tourists.
Joseph Fischer, owner’s representative and executive board member for IDB Tourism Ltd, said Tuesday that if Israelis feel that Turkey will regret the loss of their tourist dollars, they are solely mistaken.
“They wouldn’t feel it all.
Israelis only make up about onehalf of one percent of the 30 million tourists who visit Turkey each year.”
Fischer said that a multitude of factors have created a situation where “there won’t be a vacuum left by Israeli tourists, others will take their place in tourism and in business and trade.” Fischer mentioned a number of factors, including the Arab Spring, during which many wealthy Gulf Arabs who would have vacationed in North Africa in previous years, decided to avoid the unrest and travel to Turkey instead.
He also said that Turkish airlines is one of the largest airlines in Europe, and Istanbul is one of the major hub cities in Europe, two factors that will make the loss of Israeli tourist traffic even less likely to cause ripples in Ankara.
Fischer also presented a scenario in which relations between Jerusalem and Ankara worsen to the point where Turkey no longer allows Israel to use its airspace as its main flight corridor to the west and to Russia. Fischer said that in such a scenario, Israeli flights would have to fly over Greece and elsewhere, increasing flight times and ticket prices.
He also said that Israel has far more to lose economically than Turkey does if the relationship continues to worsen.
That said, there is one sector of Turks who stand to lose if Israeli tourists are replaced by visitors from points beyond: the merchants in the marketplaces of Turkey.
“The people working in the bazaars in Antalya would feel it. Israelis spend half of their visit to Turkey in the bazaars shopping. Shopping is a huge part of the Israeli travel experience and their absence will surely be felt by merchants.”