Meseznikov backs decision to cut out workers' Turkey trips

Meseznikov backs decisio

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov emphasized Sunday that he was not calling for a boycott of Turkey, but he reiterated his support for a decision by the Histadrut Labor Federation's association of workers' committees to stop offering low-cost trips to the popular destination. Meseznikov sent a letter to Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini expressing support for the decision announced on Friday by the powerful union. Among the large firms whose workers decided to cancel their organized visits was El Al Israel Airlines, which has one of the country's most powerful workers' associations. Meseznikov emphasized on Sunday that, in general, he supports replacing all organized overseas vacations sponsored by labor groups with similar benefits - but to domestic travel destinations such as Eilat and the Dead Sea. To that end, Meseznikov announced he is working on a bill that would offer tax benefits and discounts to employers sponsoring workers' vacations in Israel. In his letter to Eini, Meseznikov said he called on the Histadrut to replace the canceled vacations with domestic trips, and asked him to support his legislative initiative. But in an interview with Channel 1, Meseznikov denied claims he was calling for a general boycott of Turkey. The Israel Beiteinu minister said that despite the current tensions between the two countries, Turkey retained its historical role as a key ally. As a lesser-known step reflecting the mood on the Israeli street, the Ilan's Coffee shop chain announced over the weekend that it would stop selling its black coffee blend known as "Istanbul Coffee" until relations improved between the two states. Black boiled or stirred coffee known in Hebrew as "Turkish coffee" is a popular product throughout the country - but other companies, such as Elite, which makes the best-selling "Turkish Coffee" product, have yet to announce similar steps. Last week, The Jerusalem Post reported that reservations of Israeli tourists to Turkey had dropped, and that families - not just large organized tours - had begun to cancel reservations and avoid flying on the Turkish national carrier, Turkish Air. Israelis account for almost 10 percent of Turkey's annual visitors, generating millions of dollars annually. The current crisis, however, came two weeks after one of the peak tourist periods for Tel Aviv-Turkey traffic, during a period that is relatively quiet even under the best of conditions. This marks the second time in 2009 that Israeli tourism to Turkey has dipped in light of diplomatic tensions. In January, after riots in Turkey after Operation Cast Lead, travel agents also recorded cancelations to the otherwise-popular destination.