Tourism in Turkey hit a new low this week, as the visitors decreased drastically after the devastating Ataturk Airport bombing. The deadly gun and bomb attack which killed 42 and left 200 injured, have forced many to cancel their planned summer vacation to Istanbul.
ISIS targeted Europe’s third busiest airport to hit the $30 billion-a-year tourism industry, analysts say.
Last month, Kurdish separatists in Turkey, who claimed the responsibility of 7 June car bombing had also issued a warning to the tourists who wish to visit Turkey.
These incidents clearly underline that the terror organizations are looking to weaken Turkey’s tourism sector and thereby the country’s economy.
“This is very bad news for tourism and more generally for air travel. It’s an attack that directly targeted travellers,” said Jean-Pierre Mas, head of French Travel Agencies Association Entreprises du Voyage to the Southern Times newspaper.
Tourist arrivals in May plunged to a historic low in 22 years, down 35 percent compared to 2015’s numbers, data published by the Turkish tourism ministry show.
The leisure and hospitality sector was reeling from Moscow’s embargo on tourists visiting Turkey after it gunned down a Russian aircraft which is alleged to have violated Turkish airspace.
After Germans, visitors from Russia are a main stay of Turkish tourism.
Most of the Russian visitors head to Antalya, renowned for its sunny beaches and turquoise waters.
The terror attack in one of the main tourist destinations of the world is an indication of the global threat the tourism sector faces these days, the head of the UN’s World Tourism Organization Taleb Rifai said.
2016 has seen several attacks in Turkey, which are claimed by ISIS or the Kurdish rebels.
Till June, almost 200 have been killed in the country in bomb blasts, including those which took place in Istanbul and Ankara.
Among them, a bombing in the premises of historic Sultanahmet square which claimed the lives of 11 German tourists was exclusively carried out aiming at visitors.
The restaurants in the tourist district of Sultanahmet are empty and many five-star hotels in the city can be booked for a bargain, a report by AFP said.
The report also says that the usual long queue before the Hagia Sophia, a famous church and Masjid turned museum, is no longer there.
This is not an isolated case of Hagia Sophia alone, but is true of most major destinations in Istanabul.
“It’s disastrous. All my life I’ve been a tour guide, most of us have come to a turning point where we don’t know if we can go on. It’s tragic,” Orhan Sonmez, a tourist guide in Hagia Sophia told AFP.
Most of the tourists who were in Turkey were shocked by the suicide bombing and many canceled their vacation went back home or to other destinations.
“I feel absolutely terrible this is happening to Turkey. Everyone that we’ve come across here has just been so gentle and nice and I think it is devastating for the economy and for tourism here,” an American tourist Wendy Deaton was quoted as saying by Euro news.