Arab tourists are filling vacant hotel rooms as the number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey declines due to ongoing political tensions between Turkey and Israel, according to an Israeli daily newspaper.
“Israeli tourism in Turkey remains a fledgling enterprise, but the worsening diplomatic crisis between the two countries has damaged the progress made in recent years to attract more visitors,” said an Oct. 15 report in the Jerusalem Post.
According to official figures, 1.4 million Arabs visited Turkey so far in 2011, a jump from about a total of 912,000 in 2009.
“Turkey as a tourist destination is disappearing because of the constant problems between the two countries,” the paper quoted spokesman for Turkey’s Tourism Ministry office in Tel Aviv, Danny Zimet, as saying.
Zimet said a record number of 560,000 Israelis visited Turkey in 2008. Turkey and Israel enjoyed warm relations until Israel launched its Gaza campaign against Hamas in December 2008. A month later, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos after saying “you kill people” to Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Israeli tourism to Turkey fell dramatically to about 300,000 visitors in 2009. The number of Israeli tourists to Turkey further dropped to 110,000 in 2010, Zimet said. On May 31, 2010, Israeli soldiers killed eight Turkish citizens and an American of Turkish origin on the Mavi Marmara aid ship bound for Gaza under Israeli blockage. The number of Israeli tourists to Turkey decreased to 62,000 between January and August of this year.