Tour Operators Assist Clients in Turkey, Express Concern Over 'New Reality'
PHOTO: Bosporus bridge in Istanbul. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
As military tanks blocked Istanbul’s two main bridges and fighter planes bombed Turkey’s parliament last Friday night, Ya’lla Tours, based thousands of miles away in Portland, Ore., had to take action regarding clients who were staying in Istanbul at the time.
“The coup started at 11 p.m. when everyone was in their room sleeping or getting ready to sleep,” said Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla Tours. “So my staff in Istanbul called them to tell them not to freak out and stay in their rooms where they all were.”
Fortunately the incident was short-lived.
“On Saturday morning, when it was all over, all continued with their plans,” said Paldi.
Some of Ya’lla’s clients were in Cappadocia, and some were in Istanbul. By Saturday morning they had all resumed their schedules and were continuing to tour Turkey.
Since then, those clients who were booked to travel to Turkey have continued with their travel plans. “No agent canceled and we are looking forward to the future,” said Paldi.
However, bookings for the future are currently stalled. The U.S. State Department issued a warning on July 19 that “suggest(s) U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.”
The State Department warning advises Americans to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey, particularly along the Syrian border; to stay away from large crowds, political gatherings and rallies and to “exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists.”
Following incidents earlier this year, the coup attempt further clouds the waters of the future of tourism to Turkey.
“All new bookings will probably not happen,” said Paldi, “and people will look for alternatives.
“Turkey is bleeding with drastic decline in tourism. The recent attack (at) Ataturk Airport and the failed coup intent are adding to this bleeding. Turkey will have to take some drastic steps in promotion and assuring travelers, particularly Americans, that it is a safe destination worth visiting.”
Asked if Turkey is currently dangerous, Paldi said, “No. Today Cleveland is much more dangerous. And Istanbul is not less dangerous than Orlando, Nice, Dallas (shall I go with the list?).”
The Globus family of brands had already canceled its departures to Turkey for the rest of 2016 after concern was aroused last spring.
“As the safety and security of our guests is our top priority, the updated state department travel warning to Turkey has caused us to cancel all land tours to Turkey through December 31, 2016,” said the company statement. “We will continue to work closely with our operations team in Turkey as well as monitor state department updates to assess the situation and resume operation when it’s deemed safe for our Globus family of brands travelers.”
Meanwhile, as new incidents of violence surface in the news on a weekly basis, tour operators are becoming increasingly concerned with the cumulative effect of this preponderance of violent incidents that seem to be taking place almost without reference to location.
As diverse as the incidents are in geography and ideology, the preponderance of violent incidents is having its effect on tourism. Each bad news event contributes to a rising consensus that the world and the travel industry in particular have entered a new reality.
For the most part, travelers are becoming used to hearing bad news of violent incidents, even in tourism areas that used to be relatively free of violent incidents. But the series of bad news reports is also having an overall, incremental effect on the patterns of travel.
“It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the coup attempt in Turkey was further proof that, sadly, travelers are learning to adjust, not cancel their travel plans whenever a political or terrorist event occurs,” said Richard Krieger, president of IsramWorld. “We received a number of calls about traveling to Turkey with a surprising amount concerned about when the airport will open and when U.S. flights may resume. Of course, it’s too soon to gauge the long-term impact, but at the moment, it appears our travelers have every intention of taking their vacations to Turkey.”
John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours, expressed dismay over the larger pattern of disorder and its possible effect on the long-term health of the tourism industry.
“Dripping rainwater on a mountain is virtually non-existent in comparison to the size of the mountain,” said Stachnik. “But that small amount of water can eventually erode the mountain. I feel these tragedies are slowly eroding the hospitality industry. We need to stop this dripping.”
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