Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, June 11, 2013
Ongoing protests in Turkey have seen a sharp fall in inquiries for hotel rooms from holidaymakers.
Hotel searches for Istanbul have decreased by 99 per cent between May 28 and today, according to the hotel comparison website Trivago. Searches for Ankara, where demonstrations have also taken place, have dropped by 86 per cent over the same period. The searches concern stays between June and September this year.
While tour operators to Turkey have yet to report any holiday cancellations, there is concern that further unrest could damage the country's tourism industry.
“Since the day the riots began in Istanbul, we have noticed a significant decrease in searches on trivago for hotels in Turkey, in comparison with this time last year," said a spokeswoman for Trivago.
“Although the riots have been primarily located in Istanbul and Ankara, the popular coastal resorts of Antalya, Bodrum, Izmir, Cesme, Marmaris, Kusadasi and Fethiye have also experienced a combined decrease in hotel searches of 81 per cent.”
Yesterday, the Foreign Office warned that further violent protests could take place, highlighting two major pro-government rallies planned for Ankara on June 15 and Istanbul on June 16.
It said the main trouble hotspots were Taksim Square, Istiklal Street and in the Besiktas area of Istanbul; the central Kizilay district around the Prime Minister’s office in Ankara; and the town centre, near the water front in Izmir.
Protests have also reached tourist destinations including Fethiye, Marmaris, Bodrum and Mersin, but the FCO said these have so far been mostly peaceful.
Today, riot police moved into Taksim Square in the city centre to remove anti-government protestors. They replaced banners hung by the protestors with a national flag and a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish state.
Tour operators have been monitoring the situation closely. Akin Koc, managing director of Anatolian Sky Holidays and chairman of the Association of Specialist Turkish Tour Operators, said: “We have received one or two calls from clients and agents to check the situation but we have not had any cancellations. Likewise none of our clients have contacted us to delay their departure or alter their itinerary as a result of the protests.”
He is currently in Turkey at the moment and said that he is hopeful that the situation will pass soon as the Prime Minister agreed to meet protest organisers tomorrow.
Thomson and First Choice wanted to "reassure customers" that the resort served by Izmir airport, more than an hour’s drive from the city, remains quiet and calm.
"Demonstrations in Bodrum are in the marina area of the city, not the beach resorts," a spokeswoman said, "and therefore customers are advised against visiting the marina during a planned demonstration.
"Similarly, protests in Dalaman and Antalya remain calm and are largely away from the beach resorts - customers are advised against visiting impacted areas of the cities."
Michael Fleetwood, product manager for Cox & Kings’ Europe, said the protests have not affected their tours. “We have a group tour departing this week as planned, and clients already in the country, and will continue to monitor the situation very closely,” he said.
Thomas Cook said holidaymakers were continuing to enjoy Turkey’s resorts: "Our experienced teams on the ground assure us that, while there have been reports of a few peaceful demonstrations in some of the tourist areas, they are fully operational,” a spokesman said.
British tourists cancelling their holidays to Turkey do so at their own risk as the Foreign Office has not advised against travel to the country. Therefore, tour operators are under no obligation to offer them a refund, or even alternative travel dates.
The FCO has also said that local transport routes in affected areas may be disrupted and recommends leaving more time for getting around, particularly for airport transfers.