Once upon a time, there was the door to Europe, the bridge of the East towards the West and vice versa. The country of Troy and Constantinople, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. The point of passage par excellence, the middle earth enriched by the passage of the modern and ancient civilizations. Tourism has always been one of Turkey’s strengths. Only a few places in the world offer such a vast and variegated cultural heritage. Suffice it to think about the “Cotton Castle” of Pamukkale – the wonderful thermal pools similar to natural glaciers but which are actually formed of calcium and travertine – at the crossroads between the Romanesque, Byzantine and Islamic art of Istanbul and the ruins of the ancient Ilio. These treasures have have become Ankara’s fortune.
But for some months now, encouraged by the risk of terrorist attacks and by the growing tensions with the countries which were friends once, things are changing. According to the latest data from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism, the percentage of arrivals dropped by 1.36% in the first eleven months of 2015, compared with the same period in 2014.
A scenario that could become even heavier on an annual basis, having regard to the recent dispute with Moscow for the story of the Russian jet shot down on the border with Syria. Exactly the Russians represent a significant portion of tourism in Turkey and have colonized the Mediterranean coast of the country. But after the accident on 24 November, the Russian government banned the sale of tourist packages in Turkey. At the beginning of December, Moscow repatriated approximately 9,000 Russian tourists who were stuck in Turkey as a result of the cancellation of flights due to tensions between the two countries. The story recalls the one that happened in 2010, when the Israeli soldiers attacked a flotilla of Turkish activists, killing nine of them. A diplomatic crisis followed and since then the Israeli tourists who crowded on the beaches of Antalya and nearby, had to choose other destinations.
The overall number of arrivals to Turkey over the last 11 months is 34.8 million people. Only in November, there was a decrease of 0.53%, equal to 1.72 million tourists. In September and October, on the wake of the offensive against the Islamic and Kurdish terrorism and some Blatant attacks, including the one which on 10 October killed over 100 people in Ankara, the decline was more significant. Only in the month of September, which in Turkey it is still considered to be high season, the decrease was of 2.31% compared to the same month of 2014. The most significant decrease obviously concerns journeys toward the south-east of the country, not far from the border with Syria and the theater of a military offensive against the Kurds of PKK. In October a group of hotels in the area, which is still marginal in relation to the west from the point of view of tourists’ numbers, complained about a decline of 50% in the arrivals during the first eight months of 2015. Also departures from Italy are in decline. In October Assoviaggi, an Italian Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism, announced that the attacks in Turkey have “caused a climate of instability in tourism” and that they “recorded a series of cancellation requests for reservations in the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve”.