Earthquake adds to problems of struggling Turkish market

Earthquake adds to problems of struggling Turkish market

TOURISM to Turkey has been dealt a further blow by last week's earthquake which left more than 6,500 people dead and thousands injured.

The number of British visitors was already down by about 10% this year as people were scared away by the threat of attacks on tourists by the Kurdish terrorist group PKK and the Kosovo War.

Tapestry Holidays managing director Nick Wrightman said business was noticeably down and fell immediately after the earthquake.

"We would normally have 30-40 clients in Istanbul at this time of year. Now we have four," he said. "On Monday we took 140 bookings to Turkey, but it was down to 64 on Wednesday."

Sunworld group product manager Alex Babic blamed the PKK for a 20% drop in bookings this year.

The earthquake, one of the strongest for 20 years, hit the town of Izmit at 3am local time on Tuesday morning but caused damage in Istanbul, 55 miles away.

Turkish Tourist Office UK director Savas Kuce said it was a tragedy for the Turkish people, but had not hit the centre of Istanbul. Houses on the outskirts of the city collapsed, but none of the international hotels or tourist sights were affected and the airport stayed open. The Foreign Office has not advised against travel to the city.

Cresta had five clients in Istanbul last week, but has temporarily stopped selling the city due to concern about the infrastructure.

Electricity and phones were cut off in the aftermath of the earthquake, but were restored within a few hours.

Travelscene is allowing clients booked to Istanbul to switch destinations without penalty, while Tapestry said its clients opted to go ahead with their holiday.

Concern about the falling numbers of British travellers has prompted Turkish tourism chiefs to agree a five-fold increase in next year's advertising budget. Kuce said the tourist office will have £3m to spend next year on TV, press and radio advertising. This year's budget is £700,000.

"We are meeting tour operators on Monday to discuss our strategy," added Kuce.

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