Shocked German tour operators are offering customers the option of cancelling trips to Istanbul following the deadly terrorist attacks at Atatürk Airport.
The attackers, allegedly IS terrorists, killed 44 people, including 13 foreigners, and injured up to 300 others when they stormed into the airport’s passenger terminal on Tuesday night and opened fire before blowing themselves up. The airport was closed until Wednesday morning.
Turkish authorities denied there had been any security breaches. Prime minister Binali Yildirim said: “There can be no talk of a security gap in the departure or in the arrivals areas at the airport.” The tourism ministry announced that all security measures had immediately been intensified.
It was the fourth major terror attack in Turkey since the start of the year and is likely to deepen the crisis in the country’s tourism industry.
The German foreign ministry responded by advising German travellers in Istanbul to contact their tour operator and to follow media reporting. It noted that political tension, violent conflicts and terrorist attacks remain possible in Turkey, and advised travellers in large cities to be particularly careful, especially in public squares, at tourist attractions and near crowds.
Tour operators in Germany condemned the attack and responded by offering free cancellations of booked trips to Istanbul. TUI, DER Touristik, FTI and Öger Tours all said that customers with departures up to July 31 could cancel free of charge or switch to an alternative destination.
Öger Tours managing director Songül Göktas-Rosati said: “We are in permanent contact with the German and Turkish authorities and are strictly following the advice of the German foreign ministry. We are informing our guests about the ministry’s latest safety advice.”
Bentour even allowed customers to cancel any Istanbul trip, without any deadlines. Asked about the impact of the attack on business, CEO Deniz Ugur said: “We’re not seeing that yet but it’s probably too soon to see any trends. Of course, it’s very likely that there will be consequences.”
Studiosus director Dieter Lohneis predicted that the latest attack would impact on demand but urged the tourism industry to “stay calm and above all not stop supporting their local partners”.
Meanwhile, Turkish tourism minister Nabi Avci cancelled a scheduled trip to Germany on Thursday where he had been due to meet German tour operators, airlines and travel agents to discuss the current situation in Turkish tourism along with issues such as subsidies and marketing measures.