Daily Israel Report

Israel's Tourism Plunge to Turkey Threatens to be Long-Term

After switching to pro-Iran, anti-Israel side of international constellation, Turkey may find Israeli tourists mean (no) business this time.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 10/18/2009, 3:21 PM / Last Update: 10/18/2009, 7:14 PM

Turkey’s switch to the Iranian, anti-Israeli side of the international constellation has already begun to cost it in terms of Israeli tourism - and the situation will intensify, tourism experts say.

Despite its small size, Israel sent more tourists to Turkey than all but nine other countries in the world in 2008. German visitors ranked first, comprising 20% of all tourists to Turkey, while Israel was 10th with 2.5% of all those who visited Turkey. The year 2008 was a record year, with well over 500,000 Israelis visiting the country.

Long term punishment
Tourism to Turkey took a brief nosedive at the beginning of this year, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep
“The picture is blacker than black.”
Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly criticized Israel and even suggested that it be removed from the United Nations because of its anti-terrorist Cast Lead offensive in Gaza. However, Israelis’ “punishment” of Turkey this time is expected to last longer and hit harder.

“I estimate that the Israeli boycott on Turkey this time will actually work,” tourism expert Yossi Barel of the College for Administration told Army Radio on Sunday. “Feeling against Turkey is much stronger than last time, and we will be seeing a significant drop in flights for a very long time, and the Turks will have to work very hard to get us back.”

Danny Simmet, Vice President of the Israel-Turkey Relations Council, agrees: “The picture is blacker than black,” he said.

A host of companies have already canceled their workplace junkets to Turkey over the past few days, tourism operators report.

Poll results
The Globes site reports that its internet poll on the topic produced unambiguous results.  Out of 4,213 respondents, 84% said they would “absolutely not” return to Turkey, while 5% said they “certainly would” return. 11% said they’re not sure yet.

Israelis had several reasons to be upset at Turkey over the past week: The cancellation of the air exercise with Israel, the announcement of a replacement exercise with Syria and the broadcasting of a TV series depicting IDF soldiers as child-killers and the like.