Trade monitoring Turkish situation


NEW YORK -- As Istanbul reeled from four deadly bomb attacks within five days against Western and Jewish targets last week, U.S. operators and cruise lines selling Turkey said they were pressing ahead with both short- and long-term plans for tours and sailings to the country, some departing within weeks.

Ronen Paldi, president of Ya'lla Tours in Portland, Ore., said his company will operate a fam trip to Turkey and Morocco for ASTA just after Thanksgiving as scheduled, despite the attacks.

Ya'lla also will forge ahead with several group pilgrimages to Turkey over the next few months, Paldi said.

"I called the leaders and they all intend to continue," he said.

Tourlite International in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is deferring judgment until February, when its promotional activities will resume for the April-to-October high season.

"Hopefully it will not happen again and will be forgotten by that time," said chairman Nick Athans. "People may be concerned about incidents if they are repeated."

Regarding the safety of Turkey as a destination, Athans said he believes "terrorist activities can happen anywhere."

The Turkish Tourist Office said it was "stunned and dismayed," adding that such attacks are "unfathomable" in "a country with an internationally celebrated heritage of a warm and hospitable embrace of all."

A spokesman for Seabourn Cruise Line, which just completed its 2003 season in Turkey and plans more than a dozen cruises there next year, said the firm is "watching the situation with interest" but doesn't anticipate cancellations.

Oceania said it hasn't lost any bookings for its five sailings calling at Istanbul and Kusadasi from August to October. That said, the line does have alternate contingency plans in place, according to a spokesman.

"We're going to remain optimistic the region will stabilize," he said. "The area seems to rebound very quickly, and I know guests are eager to get there."

But at least one operator, Kyle Ekinci, general manager of Sunny Land Tours and an Istanbul native, isn't so sure.

"Since the war in Iraq, tourism to the area got affected big time; even some of the Greek island cruises got canceled," he said. "I just read that some of them are going back, but I don't know if they can fill ships now with Turkey being in the news."

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected]. To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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