The violent anti-government demonstrations, which are said to have led to two deaths, initially began in Istanbul last week when police shut-down a protest against plans to cut down trees to make way for a shopping centre. Other demonstrations have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been accused of forcing his conservative Islamic views on secular young Turks.
The country’s tourism board has moved to play down concerns the riots will stunt travel to the country this summer and has not launched any reassurance activity. It has, however, been responding to customer requests and issued a statement last week to reassure those travelling to the affected areas.
Tolga Tuyluoglu, director of the The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, told Marketing Week its planned campaign is “continuing without change”.
He adds: “There are some peaceful demonstrations; this is normal and usual part of democracy. Istanbul and other parts of Turkey are safe to travel as usual. We don’t expect that the demonstrations will have a lasting impact on tourism. Flights to Istanbul are full.”
The response comes as trouble spreads to tourist areas on the coast. Although the Foreign Office is continuing to warn holidaymakers of the potential dangers in those affected cities, travel companies say demand is unlikely to be affected.
The UK’s biggest tour operators, Thomas Cook, First Choice and Thomson, which all operate major resorts on the Turkish coast, have attempted to reassure customers, stressing that their respective resorts are some distance away from the affected areas.
A spokeswoman for First Choice and Thomson owner TUI Travel says: “We would like to reassure our customers that the resort served by Izmir airport is over an hour’s drive from the city of Izmir, and remains quiet and calm. Demonstrations in Bodrum are in the marina area of the city, not the beach resorts, and therefore customers are advised against visiting the marina during a planned demonstration.
“Our colleagues in our resorts have expressed that it is very much a ‘business as usual’ operation. The atmosphere is quiet and calm, with people continuing to enjoy their holidays as normal.Our Cruise team continue to monitor the situation, and are reviewing the Turkish excursion programme on a daily basis.”
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook UK & Ireland says: “We continue to monitor the situation in Istanbul and other major cities in Turkey, and we are in close contact with the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Our experienced teams on the ground assure us that while there have been reports of a few peaceful demonstrations in some of the tourist areas, they are fully operational and our holidaymakers are continuing to enjoy these popular resorts.”