Turkish Hoteliers Seek to Bring Israeli Tourists Back ‘Home’

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the main bazaar in the city of Antalya. Photo by Kobi Gideon / flash90
A view of the main bazaar in the city of Antalya, Turkey. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

For the first time in three years, representatives of Turkey’s travel industry will present their offerings at Israel’s biggest tourism industry event. The International Mediterranean Tourism Market, to be held in Tel Aviv next week, will see a number of hotels in Turkey, especially from the resort area of Anatalya, represented at the event.

A decade ago, Turkey was among the preferred destinations for Israeli tourists. Charter packages to Turkish all-included vacation centers were popular among Israelis of all backgrounds – with hotels catering to all segments of the population – and even with airfare were often cheaper than stays in Eilat or the Dead Sea. But after the break in Israel-Turkey relations in the wake of the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, in which IDF soldiers killed nine Turkish pro-Hamas activists who attacked them, Israelis have felt very unwelcome in Turkey.

The result was that almost overnight, Israeli tourists abandoned Turkey as a vacation destination – apparently to the detriment of Turkey, according to hoteliers who spoke to Yediot Aharonot. “The situation in Anatalya is not good,” said one. “We very much want the Israeli tourist to come back. They are an important market for us.”

Other hoteliers from the region said that there was no need for worry when visiting the area. “Anatalya is quiet, and it is only an hour away from Israel,” said one resort owner. “The relations between our countries is improving. I personally like Israelis a great deal.”

In 2015, 224,000 Israeli tourists visited Turkey, 19 percent more than in 2014 and 36.5 percent more than in 2013. However, the number is still smaller than the number recorded in the period before 2010, when there were often 20 flights a day to Turkey during the summer vacation months.