PARIS ATTACKS CAUSE TURKS TO RECONSIDER TOUR PLANS

Istanbul-based tourism experts say safety concerns have hit Paris tour plans but claim fears will pass. (Photo: AA)
Istanbul-based tourism experts say safety concerns have hit Paris tour plans but claim fears will pass. (Photo: AA)

Istanbul, 6 Shafar 1437/18 November 2015 (MINA) – Turkish tour operators are reporting a 50 percent drop in the number of people willing to visit Paris after last week’s terror attacks.

Some Turks are canceling or postponing their trips because of safety concerns, several Istanbul-based travel specialists have told Anadolu Agency. AA quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINa) as reporting.

However, industry sources say these concerns will be temporary.

Avni Sagiroglu, an international specialist at Istanbul-based Ani Tour company, said many customers still had safety concerns:

“Around 50 percent of our tours in November and December have been canceled as our clients did not want to go to Paris just after the attacks.”

“We are directing our clients who really do not want to go to Paris, to some other destinations like the Balkans or Far East countries,” Sagiroglu added.

On Friday night, 129 people were killed and over 350 injured in a string of suicide bombings and gun attacks targeting Parisian civilians.

French Prime Minister Mauel Valls, speaking to France’s RTL radio on Monday, warned Europe that more attacks were likely:

“We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too.”

Thirty-five-year-old Erdan Sahin, a tourist guide in Istanbul, is also among those who has canceled a private tour to Paris because of safety concerns.

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“I, together with my wife, was planning to go to Paris for a three-night tour on Dec. 4 but we have canceled it because of the security concerns just after the attacks and we also did not want to encounter visa problems,” Sahin says.

The Paris killings are the worst on European soil since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which 191 died.

The attacks are the latest terror assault in Paris, in a year which has seen the French capital repeatedly become the scene of deadly violence. A gun attack on French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and a shooting in a kosher supermarket in January left 17 people dead.

However, other Turkish travelers remain determined to go to Paris and have not canceled their plans, as they think that the danger is over.

Derya Over, marketing and product manager of Istanbul-based Cafe Tour company, said they had received only a handful of cancellations:

“There have been only four families who wanted to cancel their tours so far. Apart from them, the others have not changed their plans,” she says.

“Moreover, just a moment ago, we received a reservation for a Paris tour, which was unexpected just after the attacks,” she adds.

Sagiroglu says: “When some of our tours have been canceled, some of our other clients rang us and said: ‘Why have you canceled the tour? We wanted to go there, now our plans have collapsed.’”

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Forty-four-year-old Lee Sukyoung, a Korean-English interpreter for an Istanbul-based company, also backs the operators’ views.

“I am planning to go there because I think the city is much more secure now compared to the time before the attacks, as security has been tightened.”

According to the travel specialists, existing fears will not last for a long time.

“I think the concerns will last for maximum one month and then everybody will return back to their normal plans,” Over says.

Sagiroglu agrees, claiming that bookings for next year remain unaffected:

“There has not been any cancellation of 2016 Paris tours so far. Our clients just wanted to cancel upcoming tours. I do not think that these concerns will be long term.”

Mumine Arda is a guide who has been showing Turkish tour groups around Paris for four years; she also thinks the short-term fears will fade:

“If there are people who are so worried over these kinds of incidents, they will cancel the tours.

“I do not think the others will change their schedule so much. The concerns will disappear soon,” she says.

“The places where the attacks occurred are not close to the touristic sites,” Arda said, adding: “It is an important detail for tourism.”

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Turkey has also experienced deadly terror attacks: in Suruc town of southeastern Sanliurfa province on July 20 and in the capital Ankara on Oct. 10.

The mass-casualty attacks reduced the number of tourists coming to Turkey but, overall, has not had a long-lasting effect on the industry generally.

Figures from the Culture and Tourism Ministry showed that the number of tourists visiting Turkey during Aug. 2015 dropped by 2.88 percent compared to the same period of last year.

“Although there have been some small-scale cancellations of hotel reservations after the Ankara attacks, we have not seen a big drop in touristic activities here,”  Mustafa Durmaz, head of the Goreme [a town in Cappadocia, a historical region of  Turkey] Tourism Development Cooperative, told Anadolu Agency.

Turkish Airlines Turkey’s largest air carrier has also confirmed that it received no cancellations for Paris flights, or a noticeable decrease in sales.

France, which is one of the most visited countries in Europe, hosts 83 million foreign visitors a year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

There are different views about the effects of the attacks, but time will tell whether French tourism will be really affected by the multiple terror attacks within one year. (T/P007/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)