After being almost completely wiped off the map for Israeli tourists, (except Israeli Arabs who continued to visit), Israelis could be set to return to Turkey's hotels following the weekend's reconciliation between Israel and Turkey.
Israeli wholesale tourist agencies and travel agents are positive on the reinstatement of Turkey as a popular Israeli tourist destination. The moment news came through that the countries had buried their differences following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday over the Marmara incident, the tourist agents hurried to think of ways to market Turkey as a worthwhile destination.
That said Israelis are not expected to descend on Turkey in large numbers over the week-long Passover holiday, which begins tomorrow. Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association director Yossi Fattal and other tourist sources believe that if Israelis return to classic Turkish tourist destinations, mainly Antalya, it will happen during the summer and not as in such large numbers as before the Marmara.
Fattal said, "I think there are two reasons why I assume that Israelis won't return to Turkey in such large numbers as in the past. The situation is still not clear, and Turkey is not as cheap as people remember it. Prices have risen significantly and it's not possible to find the famous $199 deals."
2008 was the peak year for Israeli tourism to Turkey, with 500,000 Israelis traveling to the country's hotels mainly in Antalya and Bodrum, as well as Istanbul. In 2011, following the Marmara incident the previous year, only 80,000 Israelis visited Turkey, mainly Israeli Arabs.
Fattal added that with 31.7 million tourists annually, Turkey is a destination in demand by Europeans. Fattal said, "With all due respect to the 350,000 Israelis that flew to Turkey in a good year, Turkey is not exactly waiting for them and has become, due to the economic crisis in Europe, an excellent alternative. European tourism wholesalers have already closed their contracts for this summer in Turkey."
Despite all this Fattal still expects Israeli tour organizers to try and renew marketing to Turkey as a worthwhile destination.
VP trade Gulliver Travels Yael Tamir also doesn't see a massive invasion of Turkey by Israeli tourists. "I don't see any swift demand for Passover but more towards the summer. Israelis need to recover. It's not a switch that can be made overnight. But if the reconciliation strengthens, demand will certainly increase."
ISSTA VP marketing Ronen Carasso also thinks Turkey will be an attractive destination by the summer. Unlike others, he believes that Turkey will become a leading destination for Israeli holidaymakers in the summer and expects an airlift. "I believe we'll see hundreds of thousands of Israelis returning to hotels in Antalya this summer. Israelis really love to vacation in Turkey, and the Turks gave us a real welcome there."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 24, 2013
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