Will Turkey remain a tourist attraction? | DW Travel | DW | 12.04.2017
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Will Turkey remain a tourist attraction?

On April 16, the Turkish people are voting on a change in their constitution. The country is experiencing turbulent times. That's scaring away many tourists, but many regular visitors are remaining loyal - so far.

"I'd go there again any time.“ Bärbel Künzel just spent her vacation in Turkey this February. Neither the security situation nor political tensions stopped the 56-year-old Magdeburg native. She's a fan of Turkey. For the past six years she's regularly relaxed in Turkish resorts. What she likes about Turkey as a travel destination are: "the food, the weather, the beach and great value for money." 

Traumstrände Europa Türkei Iztuzu (picture-alliance/ZB/J. Kalaene)

İztuzu Beach near Dalyan

Few tourists, but contented ones

Tour operators tirelessly advertize affordable prices: "You get a lot of vacation for relatively little money, and our visitors continue to be very satisfied," says Kathrin Rüter-Pantzke, Öger Tours spokeswoman. By its own account, the company is the leading supplier of Turkish vacatons on the German travel market. 

Last year revenues from tourism in Turkey declined by almost 30 percent. Holidaymakers stayed away first and foremost because of fear of terrorist attacks. The slump continues in 2017, but it seems to be lessening slightly. "We see a positive tendency, " says Rüter-Pantzke. She adds that so far Öger Tours has booked slightly more trips than at the same time last year. 

Türkei Tourismus Stadt Kusadasi (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Rose)

Kuşadası on the Turkish Aegean coast

A decline of about 50 percent

At Europe's largest tourism company TUI, business in Turkey has dropped by 50 percent. "In normal years we had two million visitors to Turkey, " says company spokesman Kuzey Alexander Esener. He says that many had instead gone to other holiday regions such as Spain, Greece, the Caribbean and the Cape Verde Islands, or taken cruises. "We still have a million customers for Turkey. It remains one of our top destinations." And he says that so far, 2017 remains on the same level as last year.  

Companies like TUI and major hotel chains can absorb such drastic losses, but smaller companies are doing increasingly badly.  

Türkei Istanbul Tourismus (DW/S. Raheem)

Confectionery seller

Travel boycott hits the population

"Many people have had their livelihoods snatched away," says a woman who runs a pension in the popular seaside resort of Side and who wishes to remain anonymous. Born in Germany, she has lived in Side for 30 years. She's seen many tourism crises, for example during the Gulf War, but "it's never been as bad as it is now." 

The woman says only regular visitors come at present and believes that many German holidaymakers are staying away "because they're expressing their opposition to Erdoğan." She thinks that's wrong: "Just as there shouldn't be a blanket boycott of Turkish shops in Germany, tourists shouldn't be boycotting Turkey. It could affect the wrong people." 

Pensions, restaurants, bars and shops have already suffered for years because of the all-inclusive packages the big chains offer. In a crisis like this, in which the tourism business tempts customers with dumping prices, the problem is compounded. 

For tourists, business as usual

Koray Cavdir's office is in Antalya. There he runs TUI's operations in Turkey. He says daily life for tourists is unchanged, and that, at least in the beach resorts, there are no signs of political tensions or economic problems to trouble holidaymakers. There are neither closed shops nor infrastructure deficits. He says a few hotels are closed, but only due to seasonal influences.  

But he does say, "What's missing are vacationers. It's still quite empty." He adds that there are hopes the season will gain momentum and that more emphasis is being put on quality: "The hotels are, of course, making more effort than ever to take the very best care of their guests. Every guest who comes is very valuable to us."  

Türkei Hagia Sophia Istanbul (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Becker)

The Hagia Sophia Mosque Museum in Istanbul

Advice from Germany's Foreign Office 

With reference to the referendum on April 16, the Foreign Office advisses tourists "to stay away from political events and categorically avoid large gatherings of people." They have to "expect heightened political tensions and protests that might be directed against Germany" - and thus German tourists.  

Bärbel Künzel received the advice to avoid big cities and crowds from her travel agency in February. But in her holiday resort she found "everything quite normal, as always." She can imagine coming again in October:" I'm not afraid that anything will happen to me." She thinks that "the people who fly to Turkey regularly will continue to do so."