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Turkey-Israel Tourism

Officials: Decline in number of Israeli tourists only slightly affects Turkey's tourism

ALI ASLAN KILIÇ  Jan 15, 2010

Turkey’s tourism industry was only slightly affected by a heavy decline in the number of tourists from Israel in 2009, sector representatives have argued.

Following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s heated exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos last year, which would later be referred to as the “Davos incident,” the number of tourists from Israel to Turkey declined noticeably. The latest data show the number of tourists coming from Israel to Turkey in 2009 was 44 percent lower than in 2008.

This, many argue, was as a direct result of what happened in Davos. Erdoğan’s walkout, however, was applauded by many Muslim countries. The tourism industry, in this sense, does not seem to have been much affected by the decline in number of Israeli tourists, as sector representatives note that they compensated for this loss thanks to a significant increase in the number of tourists from some nine Middle Eastern countries.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman on the issue, Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) Vice Chairman Seçim Aydın said the Davos incident opened up a new era in tourism between Turkey and Middle Eastern countries, sparking great interest among tourists from the region. The number of Israeli tourists may have been lower in 2009, but more Arab tourists flocked to Turkey at the same time, Aydın says. According to the TÜROFED vice chairman, Arab tourists spend a lot more than Israelis do and this was enough to compensate for the decline in the number of tourists from Israel. “We realized this in 2009.”

The manager of Fatih Turizm, Bülent Günel, says spending habits are as important as the number of tourists, and Arab tourists have huge potential to this end. “Arabs certainly spend more than Israelis do,” he said. Günel said the tourism industry had lost nothing but rather earned more following the “one minute” Davos incident.

According to Ministry of Culture and Tourism data, Turkey, despite the global financial turbulence, was the sole country to increase both its number of tourists and tourism revenues in 2009 over the preceding year. Observers argue that the country will enjoy even better figures in tourism in 2010.

Underlining that all-inclusive packages played an important role in attracting more tourists, particularly from the Middle East, sector representatives say they earned relatively more from individual tour packages. Aydın said most Israeli tourists preferred all-inclusive packages that cost 200 euros on average. “And they spend most of their time at their hotels. This means Israelis spend as little as possible. ... However, when you look at Arab tourists, they take their time to attend different events, visit many places and hence spend much more.” Aydın said a further decline in the number of Israeli tourists would not do much harm to Turkish tourism under these circumstances.

According to officials from the Ministry of Tourism, the major factor leading Israelis to cancel their trips to Turkey was propaganda telling them that “Turkey is no longer a safe place” rather than a reaction to the Davos incident. Hotel managers said they are committed to doing their best to dispel such negative rumors and will welcome Israeli tourists.

Officials: Decline in number of Israeli tourists only slightly affects Turkey's tourism
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