The fvw workshop in Antalya with travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers, was highly symbolic in politically turbulent times, writes fvw’s Klaus Hildebrandt.
More than 80 German participants, including 60 travel agents, DRV President Norbert Fiebig, high-ranking managers from all major tour operators offering Turkey holidays as well as Sun Express, along with 180 Turkish hoteliers at the one-day conference and widespread coverage in the Turkish media – the fvw workshop in Antalya was not just bigger than usual but clearly came at just the right time.
Turkish tourism is going through its deepest crisis as a result of the Russian travel boycott and severe drops in visitors from all European source markets. Many hoteliers and business owners face threats to their existence, and thousands of jobs have already been lost.
Many German consumers are worried about safety after the terror attacks in Istanbul and Ankara, political relations are at a low-point following the Armenian resolution by the German Parliament, and press freedom is increasingly restricted in Turkey.
In this situation, should you – and can you – even hold a conference in Turkey? At fvw, we discussed this issue intensively. But we’re glad that we organised the workshop, and that so many people took part. Not only because the trip was viewed as a gesture of solidarity by the Turkish tourism industry and we were welcomed with open arms. Above all, because German and Turkish business partners were able to leave the loud sounds of politics behind them and discuss their common interests.
Reading between the lines was also important. No Turkish tourism manager can now afford to openly criticise the increasingly autocratic rule of President Erdogan. But when people referred to the country’s image problems as well as the security concerns, everyone understood what was being referred to. In private conversations, there was no shortage of harsh words from the country’s mostly liberal and Westernised tourism managers.