The Turkish effect cuts both ways

Travel adviser: Boycotting Turkey does not economically benefit the Israeli consumer.

By
July 11, 2010 00:15
4 minute read.
turkish airlines plane

turkish air. (photo credit: AP)

Recent events in the Middle East have left steely-eyed travel professionals unable to succinctly communicate how the recent rift in relations with Turkey affects the tourism industry. With apologies to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s first president, I offer my own thesis: the Turkish effect.

To understand in depth what the Turkish effect is, one must first grasp what the greenhouse effect is. Simply put it’s the rise in temperature because certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun.

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Without these gases, heat would escape back into space.

Have you ever seen a greenhouse? Most look like a small glass house. And countless readers will comprehend that those that live in a glass house should not be throwing stones.

The Turkish effect bears quite a lot of similarities to the greenhouse effect. Large amounts of gases have emanated from Turkey over the last few months resulting in trapped energy. The main result has been that of severe polarity. Like two magnets pushing themselves apart, a massive multitude of potential tourists are using all modes of energy to avoid travelling to Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are not visiting Turkey. Millions of dollars are not being spent at Turkey hotels. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are not being spent in Turkish stores.

Moreover, the ripple effect has led to a near boycott of Turkey by supporters of Israel from other countries.

Many travel agencies have reported that both US evangelicals and British Jews have canceled plans to visit Turkey. French tourists, primarily Jewish, who spend the entire summer vacationing here, have already opted to head to Eilat for a few days rather than risk the waters off the coast of Turkey. US organized tours that have combined visits to Israel with a sojourn in Turkey have deleted Turkey from their fall brochures.



Still this is just a drop in the bucket in the Turkish tourism scene. No doubt the German and Russian tourists will fill up the Turkish resorts, spending almost as munificently as their Israeli counterparts. Empirical evidence, though, seems to show that Israelis tend to spend more per capita than their European counterparts.

The Turkish effect does not translate into an economic benefit for the Israeli consumer.

Quite the contrary. To understand this side effect one must grasp the subtleties of the butterfly effect. Often attributed to famed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, the postulation was that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could result downwind in cosmic changes. Although commonly used to denote time travel, my postulation is that small changes have large effects in all travel. In fact the majority of Israelis will still be taking their summer vacation. Those with more disposable income have opted to travel farther afield.

The US and Canada, in particular, have seen large increases as the Israeli public makes plans to visit the breadth and depth of North America.

It’s closer to home though that the Turkish effect can be experienced in its full glory.

Cyprus and Greece have naturally stepped into the vacuum. Offering similar, all inclusive clubs, they are doing their utmost to woo the Israeli consumer. Unfortunately as the demand to simply get away is so great, the supply is limited in what is available.

Thus the prices for these packages have mysteriously been increased 20 percent over last summer. Actually there is no mystery; simply the effect of supply and demand. The greater the demand, the more valuable, or more expensive, becomes the supply. Hotels in Eilat and the Dead Sea also found the timing irresistible and increased their rates.

Recently I was a guest at a deluxe Crete hotel resort. The facilities, though aged, were delightful. My wife can attest that the shopping in the nearby town was abundant in both its offerings and its prices.

Two conclusions were reached. First the Greek people love fawning over tourists from Israel. Seems there is almost an inbred animus to Turkey and everywhere we went warm embraces and wide smiles greeted us when they discovered our origin. Never in recent years have I felt such pride in being an Israeli. We found Crete to be a pleasant diversion and were happy to leave our euros in their shops.

The other conclusion relates to the comfort level of the resorts. Viewed through the eyes of the Israeli tourist and his family, it was quite obvious that Greek hotels cannot replace the Turkish resorts. Even the property that hosted us, all inclusive in theory, was lacking in several areas. Bottles of water were “extra.” Limited water sports were available. Almost no planned children’s activities existed. Internet access was spotty, and nonexistent in the hotel rooms.

So keep in mind that the Turkish effect does cut across the seas. Turkey, and all those who have benefited from the Israeli tourist there, will lose hundreds of millions of dollars; and the Israeli consumer will end up paying much more to receive much less.

The writer is CEO of Ziontours in Jerusalem.
For questions and comments, e-mail him at mark.feldman@ziontours.co.il.


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