THE RECENT bomb explosions which killed one British tourist and injured several others on the Aegean coast have dealt a severe blow to the government. Faced with a record current account deficit of $6,380 million in 1993, it had been looking to the tourism sector to provide additional income this year. Tourism revenues for 1994 have been targeted at $4,500 million from 7.5 million visitors, compared with $4,000 million from 6.5 million tourists the previous year.
The 21 and 22 June bomb attacks in Marmaris and Fethiye have been attributed to the rebel Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has openly declared war on tourism targets. The two resorts are favoured haunts of visitors from the UK, whose increasing numbers this year have offset a decline in German and French tourists.
But a week after the bombs there had been no apparent adverse impact on UK, Scandinavian or Dutch visitors patronising the Aegean, according to Talha Camas, president of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), and head of leading local tour operator Visitur. There had been no charter flight cancellations, for example.
‘I think people on the street in Europe realise that these are isolated incidents,’ says Camas. He says that European tour operators specialising in Turkey will work to minimise negative media influence, and expresses the hope that European governments will not issue any negative travel advice.
Unfortunately, the bomb explosions have come at a time when business was picking up after a slow start to the season. But provided there are no more similar incidents this year, numbers could be up by 15-20 per cent on 1993, says Camas.
More flights have been laid on from the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, with seat occupancy well over 90 per cent. However, arrivals from Austria are down. The Europe-wide recession has been at least as important as the threat of violence in deterring visitors, particularly from Italy.
A similar bomb explosion in 1993 in the southern Mediterranean resort of Antalya, a region popular with French and German tourists, was also partly responsible for the 19 per cent fall in visitors in the first four months of 1994 compared with the same period the previous year, according to Suha Uyar, TURSAB secretary general. It is hoped the French and German visitors will increase in July and August.
By comparison, the Aegean resorts of Kusadasi, Bodrum, Marmaris, and Fethiye have been doing well largely on the strength of increased numbers of UK visitors, says Camas. Istanbul is always popular, but is a special case. Security has been greatly increased around sites such as the Covered Bazaar, Hippodrome, and Aya Sophia mosque since other bomb explosions earlier this year killed one tourist.
British visitors increased in numbers by 35 per cent in the first five months of 1994 compared with January-May 1993. However, British visitors are not as highly valued as other Europeans as they tend to spend less.