Turkish officials: Lira dip will not affect tourism

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Last week's freefall of the Turkish lira -- which lost one-third of its value against the U.S. dollar -- is unlikely to affect tourism here, according to delegates at the Turkish trade show ITTE, held here.

The Turkish currency slipped from 650,000 lire to the U.S. dollar on Feb. 19 to approximately 1.08 million lire to the dollar on Feb. 23 after a political crisis that resulted in the floating of the currency.

The U.S. dollar is widely circulated in Turkey, as several tour operators noted, and savings accounts as well as payments, from abroad and within the country, are typically made in dollars.

At a press conference during ITTE, Turkey's tourism minister, Erkan Mumcu, said the economic instability would not affect tourism negatively or positively:

"The country's foreign debts will be harder to pay because our currency is now worth much less, but Turkey will become more attractive for investment," he said.

At the end of last week, retailers and restaurants were struggling to print new lira prices -- which are substantially higher -- that reflected the falling value of the currency.

Meanwhile, Turkish economists are predicting that the currency will stabilize within two weeks. Until that time, travelers here are encouraged to exchange as little money as possible. Credit cards as U.S. dollars are widely accepted in the Turkish shops, restaurants and hotels.

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