Israeli tourism to Turkey has dropped dramatically in 2009, and some industry experts are blaming Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh criticisms of Israel over Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Between January and May of 2009, 64,000 Israelis visited Turkey, down from 162,000 during the same period in the previous year - a 60 percent drop. Erdogan's comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and his heated exchange at the January event with President Shimon Peres, were "absolutely" to blame for the decline, said Yossi Fatael, managing director of the Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association. "After the conference, public opinion changed," Fatael told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Something in the basic relationship between Israeli tourists and Turkey as a tourist destination was harmed." Erdogan's performance at the debate - where he "stepped out in front of our president" and vehemently condemned Israel for its actions, had soured Israelis' attitude toward Turkey, Fatael said. However, Turkey's Culture and Tourism attache to Israel, Inanc Ozcakmak, said that other factors were also responsible for the decline. "Of course the situation between the two countries is one of the reasons tourism is down," he said. "But it's not the only one." While the country was engaged in Gaza many Israelis had chosen not travel at all, and many others were serving in the IDF, said Ozcakmak. He added that in his opinion, the economic crisis was also a factor. Whatever the cause, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry is working to reverse the trend. In May, the ministry held a fair in Israel, attended by travel agents and 40 representatives of Turkish hotels. The event had been "very successful," said Ozcakmak, adding that the situation between the two countries was improving daily.