In fact, some believe it may negatively affect Turkish tourism should Greece come up with very attractive prices in an effort to turn the tide. “[The crisis in Greece] wouldn’t positively influence in any major way the picture in Turkey. Actually, Greece may, by excessive price reductions, get a share of tourists who otherwise may choose to come to Turkey,” Timur Bayındır, president of the Turkish Hoteliers’ Association (TUROB), has told Sunday’s Zaman.
Osman Ayık, president of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation, expressed the same concern in a recent statement, saying, “Should Greece offer attractive prices, they may get a slight portion from Turkey’s share as well.” But Seçim Aydın, president of the Anatolia Tourist
Administrators Association (ATİD), doesn’t quite agree. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, he commented, “Even if Greece brings down prices, I don’t think it would get tourists from Turkey’s market.”
According to Aydın, who is of the opinion that tourists, when choosing a holiday destination, would focus more on the price they would pay than the economic situation. If Greece should suffer any losses in tourism income, it would be caused more by deficiencies in the country’s marketing policy than the economic crisis. “And in that case, Turkey would also receive a share from Greece’s tourist portion,” he stated, but also added that he does not believe the crisis in Greece will have any major positive repercussions on the Turkish tourism industry.
But as Müberra Eresin, the vice president of TUROB, notes, although the crisis in Greece may lead some European tourists to Turkey for their vacation, İstanbul seems to have lost, for some time to come, a non-negligible portion of the Greek tourists who used to visit the city. “There has been a considerable decrease in the number of long-staying Greek tourists who visit İstanbul,” she commented to Sunday’s Zaman by e-mail, a situation she believes will prevail for quite a while.
Greece, which is in a serious debt crisis, has been going through hard times. There are fears that the country may even decide to leave the euro. The country will go to general elections on June 17, the second in two months, because of the political instability, and the opinion polls suggest pro-and-anti austerity parties in the country will receive nearly equal support from the public.
The tourism industry in Greece is quite concerned, and for good reason because the economic and political crisis in the country has adversely affected the sector. According to a recent poll published by Stern magazine in Germany, nearly half of all Germans want Greece to leave the eurozone, while a third of those consulted said they would have second thoughts about spending their vacation in Greece.
With Germany demanding Greece adopt tough austerity measures, which is negatively perceived by most Greeks, and fears of Greece’s euro-exit together with the possibility of strikes, this seems to have kept quite a few of the Germans, one of the major holiday-maker groups for Greece, away from Greece. Several German travel firms announced a couple of weeks ago that bookings to Greece were down around 30 percent compared to last year.
Speaking to Reuters, Andreas Andreadis, the head of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), recently said, “We will see a considerable drop in tourism income -- a negative number, something like 10-15 percent.” But Hellenic Hotel Federation President Ioannis Retros seems a little more optimistic. “We expect a decrease in arrivals of around 6-9 percent, and approximately 10 percent in revenues for the whole year,” he told Sunday’s Zaman by e-mail, confirming that, in the past few weeks, many hoteliers have reported a general stall in reservations from the main European and transatlantic markets. He is optimistic, because, as he notes, “The cost of travel to Greece has never been better and so attractive for all visitors.”
But the picture doesn’t look very promising for the moment. Because of the crisis, in Athens alone 25 hotels have closed down, and cruise ships are considering to put the port of Piraeus on the black list. In Greece, revenue from tourism reached 10.5 billion euros in 2011, and 16.5 million people visited the country the same year. The tourism industry, which is vital for Greece, makes up, with direct or indirect contributions, about 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for 18 percent of the total workforce.
Tourism is also a major source of revenue for Turkey. It provides direct employment to some 500,000 people, and indirectly employs more than 1 million. In the first five months of 2012, Turkey has seen a drop of 4-5 percent in the number of foreign visitors. Last year Turkey accommodated more than 30 million tourists, earning an estimated total revenue of around $28 billion.