Saturday, June 18, 2016

What's going to save Turkish tourism this week?

War across the border and conflict and terrorist bombings at home have sent Turkey's tourism industry into a tailspin. The downing of a Russian jet didn't help matters. Neither, probably, did attacks on Asian visitors. The situation is so dire that the headline of a satirical news story was echoed by hotel owners' actual complaints to a real news outlet after the most recent bomb in Istanbul: that there are no reservations left to be cancelled.

With 8 percent of the country's entire workforce employed directly in tourism and the downturn showing no signs of abating, this is no laughing matter. But the seemingly endless list of attempts to save the industry is by turns sad, hilarious, head-scratching, and appalling (and ever-so-occasionally pragmatic). So what's going to save Turkish tourism this week? Is it...

1) Shooing away those unsightly refugees?

2) Giving school kids an extra two weeks of vacation?

3) Organizing a Justin Bieber concert?

4) Taxing Turks who travel abroad?

5) Building Chinatowns in major Turkish cities?

6) Promoting halal holidays?

7) Offering submarine tours of the Mediterranean?

8) Sinking an airplane into the ocean?

9) Filming a new soap opera?

10) Subsidizing charter flights?

11) Building the world's largest duty-free shop?

12) Praying?

Seems your (and my) guess is as good as anyone else's, so what would you propose to save Turkish tourism? I considered suggesting that Turkey steal an idea from its neighbor Georgia and welcome foreign travelers with complimentary wine, but a free bottle of Turkish plonk might scare even more visitors away.

UPDATE (13 July 2016): With fences mended with Russia, and domestic travel boosted to record levels by the declaration of a nine-day holiday following the fasting month of Ramadan, things may be looking up for the tourism industry. But Turkey is taking no chances: The Black Sea city of Samsun recently announced that construction is almost complete on the world's first golf course on an artificial island