Turkey has an ambitious plan to revive its tourism. With many cruise lines having pulled out of the destination in 2016, what do cruise executives have to say about a potential tourism revival?
Azamara Club Cruises has three itineraries that stop in Turkey, although the country isn’t a focal point of any voyage. According to Azamara President and CEO Larry Pimentel, the eastern Mediterranean is nearly “wiped out” in terms of popularity among travelers, which is mainly due to the current geo-political climate. Many itineraries of theirs that were sailing in this region have since moved into the western Mediterranean (where, despite similar threats, the destinations remain popular).
While Turkey has plenty to offer, until things begin to “simmer down,” as Pimentel says, the cruise line will mostly avoid the area. “Azamara wants our guests to feel safe,” he says. Another issue he found with traveling to uncertain areas is insurance: ships and travelers won’t be insured when traveling to specific regions. Pimentel estimates the destination might take a half-decade before it begins to rebound – and that clock begins once the tension is over.
“Turkey is a beautiful country offering a wealth of culturally rich experiences,” Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez said in a statement provided to Travel Agent. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world and it has always been popular with cruise passengers. We applaud the Turkish government’s efforts to revive tourism and to assure the safety and security of visitors and we look forward to resuming service to Istanbul when there are no longer safety concerns.”
Windstar Cruises reports that the line has seven calls scheduled to Turkey for the rest of the 2017 season, with 20 more on tap for 2018, on the 148-passenger Wind Star. The line calls at Kusadasi, Turkey, on the majority of its Greek Isles itineraries for tours to Ephesus and the House of Mary. In 2017, the line offered the seven-day Treasures of the Greek Isles cruise 14 times, and in 2018 the line increased the number of departures to 2018. The line also sails the longer, 10- or 11-day Ancient Wonders of Greece and Ephesus itinerary, which includes a full day call at Kusadasi. All calls to Kusadasi include a signature Destination Discovery Event during which guests dine in the shadow of Ephesus’ Celsus Library.
“Our teams continuously monitor and evaluate situations throughout all regions of the world where our ships sail or are scheduled to cruise,” a representative of the line tells Travel Agent. “Windstar’s Fleet Operations team, along with Executive Management, continuously analyze safety and security information from numerous sources, including the U.S. Department of State and other governmental agencies and organizations such as the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) along with regional and local authorities, port security, and port agents. If a revision to an itinerary becomes necessary, guests and their travel agents will be notified in a timely manner as revised plans are finalized. Should an itinerary change occur mid-cruise, guests on board will be kept updated by ship staff. At Windstar Cruises the safety and security of our guests and crew is always our top priority.”
A representative of Holland America Line reports the cruise line has no calls scheduled in the country through 2018, and that the company will continue to monitor the situation.
Cruise lines began to cancel calls in Turkey last year following a failed coup and a series of terrorist attacks. Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Windstar Cruises and Oceania Cruises all also canceled calls to the destination.
Last week Turkey’s new Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Hon. Professor Dr. Numan Kurtulmuş, announced that the country was setting a target of 50 million international visitors by 2023, a goal that is expected to generate $50 billion in economic impact.