Turkey’s Military Coup Attempt Overthrows Tourism Revivalby
Mediterannean countries to benefit from Turkish tourism drop
Turkish Air, global carriers resume flights to main airports
Amira Gharib booked a three-week family trip to Turkey months ago, excited about seeing Ottoman mosques and the lush green landscapes of Bursa. Then she saw the images of Turkish soldiers trying to wrestle power from the government.
“It’s like they’re saying ‘don’t come’,” Gharib, a seasoned traveler from Dubai, said by phone. “I didn’t see this coming. I heard about the bombs but the coup was a surprise.”
The unsuccessful uprising within Turkey’s military over the weekend dashed hopes of reviving travel bookings for what remains of the peak mid-year travel season, following a 10 percent decline in visitors to the country in the first quarter of this year. The number of international visitors to Turkey is expected to decline 5.2 percent this year to 32.9 million, according to Euromonitor International.
Tourism is an essential source of foreign currency to finance Turkey’s current-account deficit and employs 8 percent of the nation’s workforce. The industry had looked for an improvement in bookings from efforts to mend relations with Russia and Israel, but those were sabotaged by a series of terrorist bombings from Ankara to Istanbul and then the insurrection over the weekend that left more than 200 people dead before the government regained control.
“The main impact of the coup attempt, taken together with the last attacks, means Turkey’s efforts to revitalize tourism will become largely ineffective,” Ali Sokmen, a London-based associate analyst for the European Union and Turkey at consultancy Control Risks, said by phone. “We are in the middle of the tourism season. The expected pick-up in tourism is from last-minute bookings and that’s highly sensitive to such events. The expectation for improvement from last-minute bookings is largely over.”
Turkish Airlines, also known as Turk Hava Yollari, tumbled 13 percent in Istanbul, the biggest drop in three years. Tour operators Thomas Cook Group Plc and TUI AG slipped 0.9 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has blocked U.S. airlines from flying to or from Istanbul or Ankara since the coup attempt began and prohibited all carriers, including foreign ones, from flying into the U.S. from Turkey either directly or through another country. The State Department on Sunday said it expects that stance will be re-evaluated in the next few days.
The U.S. earlier urged citizens to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey and urged them to reconsider travel there after the July 15 events, according to the State Department. The U.K.’s Foreign Office advised citizens against all but essential travel to certain areas in Turkey and said the threat from terrorism remains high in the country, according to its website.
The attempted coup’s impact on Turkey’s travel companies extended beyond bookings. Airbus Group SE postponed the delivery ceremony for a A320neo plane to Istanbul-based Pegasus Airlines, as the manufacturer and the leisure carrier agreed to seek a “better moment” for the event, which was slated for Tuesday.
With recent terror attacks in Turkey already spooking travelers, further concerns about safety “could continue mid- to long-term if adequate security measures are not taken by the Turkish government,” Diana Jarmalaite, research analyst at Euromonitor, said by e-mail.
Travel by families is expected to decline the most as safety is their biggest priority, said Peter Goddard, managing director of Dubai-based TRI Consulting. Business travel will be the least impacted, though executives will be mindful of the locations and durations of their stays.
Travelers may look at alternative destinations with a similar Mediterranean experience such as Spain, Portugal or Greece. Gharib, the traveler from Dubai scared off by the coup attempt, said she switched to the more expensive option of exploring Roman ruins in Italy.
International airlines including Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Eurowings resumed flights to Turkey Sunday after most services to Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports were canceled during the coup attempt. Turks living abroad will still want to visit family and friends back home, Sokmen said.
“Those on a flight to Turkey now probably want to make the best use of it and just say ‘let’s go have apple tea and shawarma’,” said Mark Martin, founder of aviation advisory Martin Consulting. “If we see another coup in a few months, it will be a warning about flying to Turkey. It’s something that’s definitely worrying.”