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The failure of Turkey specialist Exclusive Escapes last week has prompted calls for agents to educate holidaymakers about the country’s geography and to avoid being swayed by “sensationalist reporting”.
The plea came as statistics revealed the extent to which the destination is suffering in the current market.
According to new figures from industry analyst GfK, year-on-year bookings to Turkey for the year to August 22 were 9% down, while the general market was up 1%.
Summer 2016 bookings to Turkey to August 22 were 24% down, compared with a 10% increase for the overall market.
Upmarket Turkey specialist Exclusive Escapes, which traded as HiddenTurkey, collapsed last week, affecting 2,000 holidaymakers.
Managing director Andrew Lee cited “two challenging years” for the destination. He said: “It’s no secret that 2015 has been one of the toughest years for tourism in Turkey, largely due to the country’s geopolitical situation.”
Lee cited Turkey’s recent military action against Isis as having an impact, adding that it had fuelled the perception of the country as unsafe and made the firm’s situation “unmanageable”.
Akin Koc, managing director of rival Anatolian Sky, said his firm was rebooking “hundreds” of Exclusive Escapes’ clients.
He blamed the bookings slump on negative perceptions following media reports that Turkey was on an Isis hit list.
“This year, media coverage has created huge problems for Turkey,” said Koc. “September is one of the busiest times for couples and we have still got empty seats.
“Unfortunately, agents and the general public have no idea about the size of Turkey and its geography. The Syrian border is 1,200km-1,500km from resorts.
“As an industry, we have to educate the public to understand there is no more risk in [western] Turkey than in Greece, Spain or Egypt. The perception problem is frustrating, unfair and upsetting. Some agents seem to see Turkey as difficult to sell and not offer it, but there is potential risk everywhere.”
The operator is increasing capacity in Turkey next year but reducing the amount of committed properties from 50% to 30%-40% to reduce operational risk.
Abta chairman Noel Josephides suggested how bookings for Turkey could be improved.
He said: “First, agents need to resist falling prey to sensationalist reporting and understand how journalists work – that disasters sell newspapers – and follow more closely what Abta and the Civil Aviation Authority are saying.
“The message to destinations is to be a lot more robust in their reactions, with factual information from the tourist offices and to have policies in place.”
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