Is the crisis in Turkish tourism only short-term or is a comeback still a long way off? Opinions were split over this key issue at last week’s fvw workshop on the Turkish Riviera.
The Turkish tourism industry is suffering deeply from the sharp drop in visitors in the first few months of 2016, which is worse than many hoteliers feared at the start of this year. But has the bottom been reached and is demand starting to pick up again? This was the central issue discussed by top-level speakers and panellists in front of some 300 visitors, including top hoteliers and association representatives, at the event in the Miracle Resort Hotel in Lara.
FTI chief Dietmar Gunz was one of the optimists. Like all other German tour operators present, he has seen rising bookings in the last few weeks, “partly even ahead of last year”. Prices, however, have dropped significantly. But Gunz stressed: “In the past, crises have never lasted more than three to four months, and then the market corrected itself. The booking trend at the start of the year was also influenced by the media.” He claimed: “Lots of journalists don’t know anything. They just copy each other without knowing the causes.”
Peter Glade, Commercial Director for Sun Express, also only believes in a temporary slump. “We’ve already seen the low-points of the crisis; growth will come now,” he forecast. The airline is already planning to increase capacity on Turkey routes in 2017, even in comparison to 2015. “I think the really bad times are over,” he declared.
A similar view was taken by Norbert Fiebig, President of the German Travel Association (DRV), who praised the ceaseless commitment of Turkish hoteliers. “I really think it feels like a turnaround.” Deniz Ogur, CEO of Bentour Reisen, commented: “Last year Greece was in the media focus, like just Turkey now.” He joked: “If Donald Trump is perhaps elected as US President next year, then Turkey will be out of the headlines very quickly.”
But these optimistic views contrasted with concerned comments from some participants who believe that Turkey is not suffering mostly from negative media reporting but rather from the geo-political situation, especially from terror threats.
Yusuf Hacisüleyman, President of the Aktob hotel association, spoke very clearly. “We have to learn that not just the three S – Sea, Sand and Sun – are important but also the fourth S – Security. We have understood that we also have to deliver this point,” he told the conference, speaking in perfect German.
Long-serving tourism manager Günter Ihlau, vice-president affiliate members at UNWTO, agreed. “According to the fvw destination study, Turkey scores excellently in all product categories. There are only deficits on the issue of security. So that is exactly where the therapy needs to start.” The experienced crisis manager has never before experienced a situation on this scale and recommends a whole package of measures as a result. “PR campaigns, information and explanations are necessary. It’s a case of confidence-building measures,” he told participants.
Patrik Hogrefe, TUI’s head of product management Turkey, was at most cautiously optimistic. “Even if we are feeling a positive trend again for Turkey at the moment, I don’t think that we will reach the old figures again quickly. In my opinion, the level of 2015 cannot be reached again next year but first in 2018.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has confirmed it will pay subsidies to tour operators for charter flights to the country until the end of August. German tour operators now plan to hold discussions with the tourism ministry about possible subsidies for the forthcoming winter season.