In the wake of last month’s deadly suicide attack in the
heart of Istanbul, tour operators and the country’s tourism representatives
remained hopeful for a quick recovery despite the impact from several cruise
lines pulling back their Turkey port calls.
“Turkey is a very important and popular destination for
us,” said Leigh Barnes, vice president, North America for Intrepid Travel. “We
did cancel our scheduled day tour departures in Istanbul immediately following
the attack. We are planning to resume day tours on Feb. 1 if travelers are keen
Intrepid operates 16 multiday tour itineraries in Turkey
and offers an additional six day tours of Istanbul under its city and day tour
brand, Urban Adventures. Intrepid said it is currently off-season in Turkey, so
the longer, multiday tour departures are not scheduled to begin again until
March. And despite the attack, the company is still expecting to take a few
thousand customers on Turkey trips in 2016, similar to the number of people it
brought to the destination in 2015.
“To be honest, the attack in Istanbul is an incomparable
tragedy,” said Canan Karaarslan, marketing and product manager for
Istanbul-based ground operator Fez Travel. “But if such a cowardly attack
convinces people not to visit Istanbul, that will be another tragedy.”
Karaarslan said that there’s “no doubt” that the incident
will impact the number of travelers visiting the country. With over 40 million
annual visitors, Turkey ranks among the top 10 most visited countries in the
But, she added, “We feel that Istanbul is no less safe
than Paris or any of the other European capitals.”
On Jan. 12, a suicide bomber believed to be linked to the
Islamic State killed 10 people, predominantly German tourists, and injured
several others in an attack near the Blue Mosque, a popular tourist attraction.
Gorkem Karakus, director of the Turkish Tourist Office in
Washington said that Turkey is working with its allies “to fight against the
terror” and is confident the country’s once-thriving tourism industry will
rebound this year.
But that rebound was made less certain when several
cruise lines canceled calls in Turkey following the attack, including Norwegian
Cruise Line Holdings, which said it was canceling calls in Turkey for the
remainder of 2016 for all three of its brands.
Crystal canceled Turkish calls on two cruises this spring
in favor of Greece, and MSC Cruises said its MSC Magnifica wouldn’t call in
Turkey until further notice.
While the Turkey cruise cancellations are significant,
cruise passengers only represent about 1% of Turkey’s total visitors, according
to numbers provided by the Turkish Tourist Office. Karakus said that in 2015
Turkey welcomed just slightly less than 41 million travelers and that of those
travelers, approximately 400,000 were cruise passengers.
Tom Stieghorst contributed to this report.