Number of Israeli tourists to Turkey plummets


The number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey plunged by 90 percent in June this year after the deadly Israeli raid on Gaza-bound aid ships shattered bilateral ties, official data showed Thursday.

Only 2,605 Israeli citizens visited Turkey in June 2010, compared to 27,289 in June last year, the Turkish tourism ministry said.

In the first six months of the year, 75,071 Israelis came to Turkey, down 17.9 percent from the 91,450 Israeli citizens who had traveled to Turkey during the same period last year.

The drastic decline came after Israeli commandos raided a flotilla of aid ships sailing to the Gaza Strip on May 31, killing eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent.

The bloodshed delivered a huge blow to already fragile Turkish-Israeli ties, prompting Ankara to recall its ambassador and cancel joint war games with its one-time ally.

As Turks took to the streets in almost daily protests, Israel urged citizens on May 31 to avoid traveling to Turkey, a warning it withdrew on July 21.

Although Turkey and Israel built a strong alliance after a 1996 military cooperation deal, their relationship soured after sharp criticism from Ankara over Israel’s devastating war on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

The strain was reflected in 2009 tourism figures when only 311,582 Israeli tourists visited Turkey, compared to 558,183 in 2008, marking a decrease of 44.1 percent.