Dispatch, Turkey: A setback for tourism


Travel Weekly contributing editor Felicity Long is traveling in Turkey. She was in Cappadocia on the day of the bombings in Ankara. Her second dispatch follows.

Just a few days ago, I posted a dispatch from Istanbul describing a serene environment for tourists, despite unrest on the Syrian border.

The Oct. 10 bomb blasts in Ankara, which at the time of this writing reportedly killed as many as 87 people, have cast a shadow over the optimism expressed by locals I had met, who were clearly anxious to shake off conflict and resume normalcy.

To put it into perspective, Ankara, where the bombing took place, is more than 300 miles from Istanbul, but it's also 500 miles from the Syrian border where the conflict had largely been localized.

It is, of course, too soon to predict what the effect will be on tourism overall, but common sense suggests that it can't help.

It's hard to believe that just the night before the blasts, I was engaged in conversation with tourism officials in Cappadocia about exciting changes coming to this area.

The House Hotel Cappadocia, for example, a trendy new property that has generated buzz for its charm, is in the process of expanding, and rumor has it that a Four Seasons is coming to the region.

Local inbound tour operator Murat Ozguc spent the evening before the attack regaling me with stories about the exciting archaeological discoveries -- some of the oldest in the world -- being made along the southeastern region of Turkey. Despite its location on the border of Syria, it isn't an area where tourists are in danger, he insisted, and he hoped more visitors would soon go when "things calm down."

Ozguc, whose clients are predominantly from the U.S. and the U.K., described it as the cradle of civilization, where some Aramaic people still live and the entire region is like an open-air museum.

To ensure the safety of tourists, he makes daily calls to locals for updates when planning trips.

"We have some troublesome neighbors, but Turkey is a big country, it's hospitable and it's as safe as anywhere," he said.

Just a day later, it strikes me that this will be a tough sell.

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