Powered by WebAds

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The end of Israel's love affair with Turkey: 70% drop in flight bookings

Until recently, Turkey was considered our 'bridge' to the Muslim world. It was a 'secular Muslim' country. It was a country that Israelis felt comfortable visiting - so comfortable that it was one of the very few countries to which American Israelis would travel on an Israeli passport because a visa is required on an American passport. But no more. Prime Minister Erdogan's tantrum on Thursday night was the final nail in the coffin.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "has lost all credibility as an honest broker in peace discussions," a senior Israeli diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night, citing Erdogan's recent anti-Israel rhetoric.

"As long as he is the prime minister of the country, Turkey has no place in peace negotiations or discussions," the official added. "It is not a trustworthy diplomatic partner anymore."

Until recently, Turkey had played a key role in quiet discussions between Israel, Syria, and other regional players.

The loss of the Turkish diplomatic channel was a serious blow to these discussions, said Foreign Ministry officials.

"The only parties that could reasonably play that mediating role now are the Americans under Obama, or, in theory, a European party," the diplomatic official surmised.


"It's not that he criticized Israel," said the Israeli official. "Other countries, such as the French, criticize Israel whenever they see fit. But Erdogan launched accusation after accusation and did everything possible to be disrespectful, including telling outright lies. He went as far as to publicly shame the president of the state of Israel," the official said.

The Davos incident was the culmination of a month of angry tirades against Israel by the Turkish prime minister. Throughout the Gaza fighting, Erdogan blamed Israel alone for the escalation and called for it to be barred from the UN.

He accused Israel of "inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents," he said.

In a January 13 speech to Turkey's parliament, he accused "media outlets supported by Jews" of "disseminating false reports on what happens in Gaza, finding unfounded excuses to justify targeting of schools, mosques, and hospitals."
But it's not just 'official' Israel that has had it with Turkey's Prime Minister: Average Israelis have had it with Turkey (Hat Tip: MR (daughter number 3, child number 5)).
For many years, Turkey has been the most popular tourist destination for Israelis. Turkish resorts from Antalya to Bodrum have offered us first-class service at reasonable rates.

At first, it was the casinos that attracted the tourists. Then, when the Muslim government closed them down, the resorts reinvented themselves.

Luxury locations sprang up like mushrooms after the rain. Some resorts stayed traditional, while others became quite exotic, with one modeling itself on the Kremlin and another taking the Titanic as its vision. All exist to spoil tourists with their all-inclusive packages.

A two-hour flight takes you to Istanbul. The charms of Istanbul, coupled with an exotic environment, has had Turkish Airlines and a multitude of Turkish charters flying more passengers to Turkey than any other foreign airline.

No more.

Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since toned down his remarks, saying they were against the government and not the people of Israel, his repeated criticism of Israel during the recent war against Hamas has led to a severe downturn in Israelis flying to Turkey.


There have been boycotts from the Israeli consumer in the past, but never on this level. The anger is both deep and palpable. Across the country, travel agents report, Israelis are voting with their feet and avoiding travel to Turkey.

Wholesalers report a 70 percent drop in flight bookings, and reservations to the resorts have all but disappeared.

Turkish Airlines has also been severely damaged. The national carrier of Turkey is known as an excellent airline with great security.

It prides itself on its expansive network with three daily flights to Istanbul that also take passengers to other international destinations.

Customers in the past have often flown Turkish Airlines to New York, Cape Town, all over Europe and the Far East. Turkish Airlines has been strident in keeping airfares very competitive and was used by clients seeking inexpensive prices to destinations beyond Istanbul. In fact, Turkish Airlines was quite proud of marketing itself with Istanbul as a hub for close to 100 cities to which it flies outside of Turkey.

No more.

Travel Agency executives report that clients are willing to pay more and fly another airline rather than transit Istanbul Airport. They view Turkish Airlines as a symbol of the Turkish government.

There have been reports that Turkish consumer groups are calling for a boycott on Israeli products. This would obviously damage Israel's business interests and put companies at risk. Trade between Israel and Turkey in 2008 was close to $3 billion.

Over 500,000 Israelis chose to travel to Turkey in 2008. Dropping millions of hard-earned dollars and shekels, they thought the Turkish people were appreciating them. Officials from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism make constant visits to Israel, promoting more and more sites, to encourage the Israeli travel agents to sell more Turkey.

We may be a thick-skinned people but when push comes to shove, Israeli consumers, along with their western counterparts, take such criticism and actions seriously. The results in the last few weeks have been surprising. It's gratifying to see that some principles remain sacrosanct and that the lure of an inexpensive trip is not inviolable.
Read the whole thing (it's written by an American who owns the travel agency I use).

Mrs. Carl and I transited Istanbul in 2004 on the way to and from New York with the four youngest kids. On the way to New York it wasn't bad, but on the way back I got kind of queasy from it.

During the first days of Operation Cast Lead, Mrs. Carl and I were guests of my travel agent for dinner (thank you El Al for messing up my meal again!). She told me that no Israelis felt unsafe traveling to Turkey. Maybe then. But apparently, her boss says, it's different now. The scene in Davos (pictured above), Erdogan's words during the war, and the forfeited basketball game in Ankara won't be forgotten too quickly. As far as Israelis are concerned, Turkey is a secular Muslim country where Jews aren't welcome.


At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I went cold Turkey years ago because we already saw then that Islamotardation was in the upswing.

Never been there. Most likely never will.

BTW, now is a good time to take a last trip or two to Europe before it slithers down into the same cesspool.

And to US readers: "Philistines upon you, America!"

At 11:07 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Kemal Ataturk's legacy is being eroded and he would have been alarmed.

He wanted a modern, tolerant and enlightened country. His Islamist successors are undoing it all.

And Turkey is fast losing her status as a bridge between the West and the Muslim World. Which is a shame since Jews remember how the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II provided the Jews fleeing the Spanish Expulsion with a refuge.

It is indeed the end of Israel's love affair with Turkey. There are lot of things Jews will take but being insulted and mistreated is not one of them. And its about time Israel stood up for its dignity and self-respect a country, to which it is entitled.

I'm happy to see Israelis shunning Turkey!


Post a Comment

<< Home