Diplomatic crisis

Turkey and Germany want to cut the politics

Travel industry bosses from both countries speak out at ITB to defuse rising tensions.

March 10, 2017
Turkey has a towering problem with falling sales.
Photo: Marco Limberg

“Less politics, more tourism” is the message Turkish and German travel industry leaders alike have delivered at ITB. A dramatic escalation in tension between the two countries over the last few weeks is threatening to worsen Turkey’s tourism crisis. A call to boycott Turkey from tourism professor and former TUI board member Karl Born on the eve of ITB has further worsened the atmosphere.

Turkish tourism minister Nabi Avci spent much of yesterday’s ITB press conference, which was marked by heavy airport-style security and an armed police guard, defending his government’s actions and trying to focus media attention on tourism rather than politics. The minister welcomed the continued engagement of German tour operators in Turkey and called for a fresh perspective. “In tourism, it’s a question of perception. If you stress good things, the situation improves, but if you criticise things, they get worse,” he said. He urged German media “not to let themselves be influenced” by “manipulative efforts” to undermine public opinion.

On tourism issues, Mr Avci announced that Turkey will significantly extend subsidies of US$6,000-$7,800 to cover all flights by scheduled and charter airlines to 14 airports in his country. He hopes this support will help reverse last year’s 30 per cent slump to 3.9 million visitors from Germany.

Meanwhile, hoteliers and tour operators have heavily criticised the boycott call. “This would penalise two million people who depend directly and indirectly on tourism,” said Osman Ayik, chairman of the hotel association Türofed. René Herzog, DER Touristik CEO for Central Europe, slammed the call as “populism”, while TUI CEO Fritz Joussen said that many Germans are highly satisfied with their holidays in Turkey.

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