Representatives of the Turkish tourism sector – the worst-hit field amid ongoing protests – pin hopes on Arab tourists who are expected to fill Turkish hotels during the Ramadan holiday in August
Turkey, especially Istanbul, could easily compensate for its losses in the tourism sector resulting from the countrywide anti-government protests when Ramadan starts, thanks to the expected high volume of Arab tourists, sector representatives have said.
Anti-government riots have hurt tourism in Istanbul, with around 40 to 50 percent of hotel reservations reportedly being delayed or canceled, although there has not yet been any official report on this.
“Istanbul, however, could recover rapidly when Ramadan starts,” a sector representative said.
A number of promotional campaigns have been undertaken to present Istanbul as a magnificent spot for Muslims during Ramadan. One such event will be started by a number of tourism organizations under the name “Ramadan in Istanbul.”
“We had great results from the Ramadan in Istanbul event last year. The number of tourists who visited Istanbul increased by 32 percent last year, compared to the figures the year before,” Füsun Tavus, president of the ISF, said.
She added that the number of Turkish Airlines passengers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had increased by 97 percent and 144 percent, respectively, during Ramadan last year. The ISF will commence the campaign next week.
“Istanbul has the capacity to attract many tourists as soon as the riots calm down,” Osman Ayık, president of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED), said.
He added that individual tourists generally visit Istanbul rather than tourists who prefer package tours. “This is so good for Istanbul because individual tourists can rearrange their trips easily, but the second group could not so.”
The first reservation delays and cancellations were, however, reportedly made by Arab tourists just after the Gezi Park protests began.
“Arab tourists always save the tourism sector and fill the hotels in Istanbul during Ramadan, but a lot of Arabs canceled their trip plans to Istanbul after the protests had begun. They appear to be home during Ramadan, instead of being in Istanbul,” Timur Bayındır, president of the Turkish Hoteliers Association (TUROB), said.
Istanbul is this year’s number six for travel out of 132 countries, and its tourism income is expected to rise to $8.6 billion this year – a 5.5 percent increase from a year earlier, according to MasterCard’s third annual Global Destination Cities Index.
Sector representatives want to hear some social rapprochement as soon as possible, just like many others. Unless a middle way is found soon, Turkey will for sure see more cancellations of trips, they warned.
They added that they had not seen any negative effects from the latest protests on the tourism sector in Anatolia and the coastline cities, such as Antalya. “We have seen however sharp decreases in the number of new reservations in the coastline cities,” Osman Ayık said.